The Wonder Show of the World

Bonnie “Prince” Billy's latest pairs Will Oldham's backwoods bark and Cairo Gang frontman Emmet Kelly's streaming folk and blues guitar. The result is stripped-down folk songs with flourishes of classic-country melodies and gospel harmonies.

Oldham's intimate lyrics focus on failed relationships and lost love, his Kentucky drawl, as usual, the main force. But behind Oldham's quivering voice, Kelly balances restraint with deep, distorted blues, slide, and acoustic strum.

"I once loved a girl but she couldn't take that I visited troublesome houses. She'd say when I got home to leave her alone. She could taste trouble on my mouth," croons Oldham on the opening track.

The duo makes due with the barest of essentials, but on songs such as “Teach Me To Bear You,” “Where Wind Blows,” and “Someone Coming Through,” the voice and guitar are a bit too bare. The listener waits for something to take hold, it just doesn’t come.

But The Wonder Show is wondrous at times, such as on standout tracks “Troublesome Houses,” “The Sounds Are Always Begging,” “Merciless and Great,” and “Go Folks, Go,” which have just the right mix of Kelly's accomplished guitar and Oldham's leaf-snap of a voice.

  • Album: The Wonder Show of the World (2010)
  • Artist: Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang
  • Label: Drag City
  • Songs: (1) Troublesome Houses (2) Teach Me to Bear You (3) With Cornstalks or Among Them (4) The Sounds Are Always Begging (5) Go Folks, Go (6) That's What Our Love Is (7) Merciless and Great (8) Where Wind Blows (9) Someone Coming Through

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