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on 12 April 2001
To me, one of the most exceptional works ever cut. Will Oldham, the singer and foundation of Palace is gaining more popularity, yet he and his music are effectively still an enigma.
This poet has no scruples with words nor apparently with their meanings in many of his songs. Yet there is a depth in his art that is both accessible and unique. Sometimes he touches the sensitivities of what lies in our hearts, even if in those darker moments.
I have developed an addiction for this Appalachian troubadour who changes his name as frequently as his styles. He is an exceptionally clever artist, not only in the way he uses his words but also his instruments. You may have to buy several of the Palace/Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy CDs to appreciate this. Palace is just the beginning of Will Oldham's inevitable rise to genius. After all, have we not waited long enough now for the return of an early Dylan?
If you buy 'Viva Last Blues' you will be buying one of Will Oldham's essential bests!
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This music is an intriguing blend of country-folk-rock produced by guitars, organ, piano, drums and the most expressive lead & backing vocals. The first track, More Brother Rides, is deeply moving although I don't really understand the lyrics; it's in the arrangement and the vocals. The next, Viva Ultra, is a sparse, slow, subdued number with exquisite guitar playing & melancholy vocals whilst The Brute Choir is somewhat similar but with more of a swing and lovely tinkling piano. Musically but not lyrically delicate, The Mountain Low sounds like an old folk song recorded in the early 20th century; Tonight's Decision (And Hereafter) is halting & sad with some unexpected vocabulary just like The Mountain Low. Both of these songs reveal a painfully bleak outlook on life.

Rock makes a spectacular entry on Work Hard/Play Hard, a track with modal & tempo shifts between the rousing and the introspective, the uptempo & the tender. The subtle vocal arrangements & chiming sound in the melodious ballad New Partner lend the song a special, magical quality whilst Cat's Blues contains welcome segments of soaring vocals after the sometimes mumbling and half-spoken delivery of previous tracks. The most mournful number, We All, Us Three, Will Ride, reminds me of Nick Drake in its simple but exquisite tune and spiritual undertone. The album concludes with Old Jerusalem, a brief excursion with profound lyrics and a sparse, subdued sound.

The overall musical effect defies classification; in its morbid moments it reminds one of Tim Hardin, American Music Club, Kevin Coyne, Swans or Nick Drake. The style of the music (leaving mood aside), occasionally covers the same terrain as Sufjan Stevens, Angels of Light or (again) Nick Drake & American Music Club. Although highly authentic & moving, Viva Last Blues probably won't appeal to a wide spectrum of even alt-country fans due to its sometimes oppressive sense of grief. But then again, it is very beautiful in its morbidity.
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This is a very lugubrious type of country blues, as bleak as Lydia Lunch on "Queen of Siam," Michael Gira on "God Damn the Sun" or some American Music Club tracks, e.g. "Firefly." My fave tracks are More Brother Rides, Work Hard/Play Hard, New Partner and Cat's Blues which is a welcome screamer as opposed to the mumbling and half-spoken delivery of most other tracks. It defies classification. Perhaps Sparklehorse was influenced by Palace? Certainly not for the average rock music fan, since it can leave you with a lugubrious, claustrophobic feeling. But then again, it is very beautiful in its morbidity.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This music is an intriguing blend of country-folk-rock made by guitars, organ, piano, drums and subtly expressive lead & backing vocals. The opening track, More Brother Rides, is deeply moving although I don't really understand the lyrics; it's in the arrangement and the vocals. The next, Viva Ultra, is a sparse, slow, subdued number with exquisite guitar playing & melancholy vocals whilst The Brute Choir is somewhat similar but with more of a swing and lovely tinkling piano. Musically but not lyrically delicate, The Mountain Low sounds like an old folk song recorded in the early 20th century; Tonight's Decision (And Hereafter) is halting & sad with some unexpected vocabulary just like The Mountain Low. Both of these songs reveal a painfully bleak outlook on life.

Rock makes a spectacular entry on Work Hard/Play Hard, a track with modal & tempo shifts between the rousing and the introspective, the uptempo & the tender. The subtle vocal arrangements & chiming sound in the melodious ballad New Partner lend the song a special, magical quality whilst Cat's Blues contains welcome segments of soaring vocals after the sometimes mumbling and half-spoken delivery of previous tracks. The most mournful number, We All, Us Three, Will Ride, reminds me of Nick Drake in its simple but exquisite tune and spiritual undertone. The album concludes with Old Jerusalem, a brief excursion with profound lyrics and a sparse, subdued sound.

The overall musical effect defies classification; in its morbid moments it reminds one of Tim Hardin, American Music Club, Kevin Coyne, Swans or Nick Drake. The style of the music (leaving mood aside), occasionally covers the same terrain as Sufjan Stevens, Angels of Light or (again) Nick Drake & American Music Club. Although highly authentic & moving, Viva Last Blues probably won't appeal to a wide spectrum of even alt-country fans due to its sometimes oppressive sense of grief. But then again, it is very beautiful in its morbidity.
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on 5 August 2006
Okay, I like Will Oldham as much as anyone. If I met him I'd probably lick his beard in feverish lapdog giddiness and then urinate myself, but lets be realistic here. Only Half the album is worth keeping on your MP3 player. I list them for the ituners out there:

New Partner (5/5) The standout track that you must have.

Brute Choir (3.5/5)

Work hard Play Hard (3.5/5)

Old Jerusalem (3/5)

Cats Blues (3/5)
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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