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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stripped down and tender, 20 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
I came across this album by chance, and was very pleased I did. I can see why it is bracketed as alt-country, but don't let that put you off, because I don't like country or folk at all, and this still hit the spot.
The album is essentially a collection of songs about love, with not a trace of syrup or tweeness. Love as an adult, complex emotion that can sometimes defy understanding. You'd have to be Ebenezer Scrooge having just had a heart transplant from Oz's Tin Man not to feel moved by Will's songs, but although they are tender and sad, he puts in humour as well. The overall tone makes me think of a man in a crofters cottage in Scotland, burning peat and sipping at a single malt and reflecting about past loves and coming to some kind of understanding and peace.
Somehow Will manages to sing 'you do what you want, and I will do what I want' - a common refrain flung, along with plates and decanters in an argument, and makes it sound romantic, almost a declaration of love. By the final track, the singer is acknowledging that mistakes have been made, 'I know I'm a hard man, to live with sometimes, maybe it ain't in me, to make you a happy wife of mine'
It's a beautiful record, thoughtful and passionate, the music is sparse but affecting and the lyrics and singing very top-drawer. Certainly a record that rewards the listener. If, heaven forbid, I got burgled and lost my record collection for a second time, this album would be one of the first I'd have to go out and replace.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bearded, oddball eccentric produces yet another classic…., 21 May 2003
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
Will Oldham is a cult figure; his legions of devoted fans would even say he’s a genius. Under his different monikers he has produced some incredibly good albums, The Palace Brothers “Viva Last Blues” and “There’s No-One What Will Take Care Of You” were as oddball and eccentric as anything around at the time and it’s a marvel that he was lumped in with the alt-country genre. That said, his music does share some of the subtle emotional heartbreak and Americana that is a requirement for the style, the difference is the manner in which he pulls it off.
He has played many characters in his time; the pensive, resentment and gloom of “I See A Darkness”, the drunken, maudlin warbling of “Ease Down The Road” and now the subtle, heartbroken misogyny of “Master and Everyone”. This may not sound like the most pleasant of themes for any album but the sheer beauty with which he carries it off is really special. Quiet, calm, peaceful and glacially distressing it is one of his finest works to date.
Each song is the equal of the next – starting with the Nick Drake-esque “The Way”, as simple as a song could get with as much emotional punch as anything you’ve ever heard. Quite fantastic. We move on and find “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise”, a duet with the honey-throated Marty Slayton, which confirms that the vocals recorded on this album are as strong as anything he has ever put on record. The title track is barren and pale but there is still meaning to be found in its detail of post break up resolutions.
The entire album is dotted with songs that range from extremely good to exceptional. The duets serve their role perfectly with “Maundering” recounting the biblical themes that Oldham has espoused throughout his career and Slayton’s voice seeming to be the thing for which he is driving himself to, some hope amidst the understated gloom. “Hard Life”, easily the most joyous track on the album, also benefits from this unlikely vocal combination. However, the real highlight of the album is “Wolf Among Wolves” in which the conflict of love and religion, infidelity and indifference that Oldham is intending to depict in the album really comes to the fore.
Some have criticised the album for its bleak serenity, being too pale to have an emotional impact. However, anyone who listens closely to the album will find an incredibly gorgeous, rewarding record that never quite answers the questions that Oldham poses to himself but has a lot of fun deliberating. His best work since “I See A Darkness” having the highest praise of being an album which almost matches that in its scope and vision. Quite fantastic.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art., 1 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
I recently pulled out my old copy of "There's No One What Will Take Care of You" and gave it a listen. That album is still outstanding but what's truly incredible is how much Will Oldham has evolved over just the last eight or nine years. Ever since first taking on the Bonnie Prince title a few years back he has reached a new plateau in his song writing. Where "I See A Darkness" was bleak and frightened and "Ease Down The Road" was drunken and melancholic, "Master and Everyone" is much more subtle album. It is more endearing than "Ease Down The Road" and at the same time more devestating than "I See A Darkness." It is a collection of some of the most resonant and profound songs I have heard in the last... well, ever. The writing and presentation work hand in hand to bring out the emotions this album inspires. At once a work of great beauty and great sadness, I can say without reservation that this album is my favorite of all Oldham's releases, and I've heard almost every last thing he's done. Only a talent like Oldham could make a line like "It's a hard life for a man with no wife" ring with deep resonancy and continue to haunt with a transcendant melancholy. Have you figured it out yet? This album is spectacular.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master at Work, 25 May 2007
By 
D. Newton (Swindon, Wilts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
Writing in his Bonnie Prince Billy guise, Will Oldham's `Master and Everyone' is an album of 10 songs, just over 34 minutes long, but is an object lesson in how less is more.

The songs feature minimal accompaniment to Oldham's own voice and acoustic guitar in the shape of occasional female backing vocals and mellow guitars and strings. All that there really is to concentrate on is the quality of the writing, but what high quality it is.

There are no bad tracks here: each song shines with lyrical maturity and melodic beauty far beyond most of Oldham's peers. It is hard to pick out highlights, but the first five and the final track are truly outstanding. `Master and Everyone' seems so simple; Oldham makes it look so easy which is always the sign of talent at work.

The music here is so mellow, melodic and soothing it is like balm to the ears but there is depth and emotional resonance to the lyrics. To pigeonhole it as alt.country is a shame because such labeling might deny the work a wider audience. To sum up, this is one of the best singer-songwriter albums I have ever heard and is highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introspective, acoustic magic, 20 Feb. 2003
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This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
We're blessed in 2003 already - it's only February and we've had Iron & Wine's astounding debut and now this... professional curudgeon Will Oldham has created an intimate, fragile masterpiece of eloquent lyrics and softly strummed guitar with the occasional augmentation of strings or keyboards. It's a neo-folky, countryesque ramble through loves lost and won and won't be going more than five feet from my stereo for the next few months.
Marty Slayton, who duets with Oldham on 'Ain't You Wealthy, Ain't You Wise?' has a voice that could melt your heart, and thought there are too many highlights to mention, special praise must go to the wonderful 'Three Questions' and the closing 'Hard Life' which starts as a John Martynesque folk lament and turns itself inside out into a classic acoustic pop tune. This is lovingly crafted, bubbling with emotion and it won't sell anything like as many copies as it would in a fairer world. C'est la vie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oddball, acoustic hero with yet another classic…., 13 May 2003
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
What can we say about Will Oldham that hasn’t already been said? A modern genius with such potency and talent at his fingers that he can produce album after album of poetic genius and reach an increasingly wide audience without ever disappointing those who went along from the start of the ride.
I initially heard the Palace Brothers “Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Playthings” about 9 years ago and dismissed it back then as weird alternative folk. Now, here I am, almost a decade later and I am singing his praises, giving him credit for the inspiration that he is. In modern times it isn’t easy for bearded oddballs to make it into the charts, save Badly Drawn Boy, I can’t think of anyone close. Yet Oldham, infinitely more bizarre than Damon Gough, has charmed and wooed a legion of fans over the years. And once again with “Master and Everyone” Oldham has produced a record that can match any of his previous efforts – even the mind-blowingly good “I See A Darkness” and “Viva Last Blues”.
Whereas “I See A Darkness” was grandiose miserabilism based around piano and shuffling drums, this album is a beautiful, peaceful and understated pine for loves lost and loves to come based around little more than a gently plucked guitar, occasional bass and vibes. Add to the mix a voice that has evolved from a pale, fractured shiver into a brave yet still shy croon and you have a record of mood and emotion which is rarely matched these days (though 'Iron and Wine' has given a run for its money in recent months).
“The Way” introduces the album perfectly, sounding like the simplest Nick Drake song never recorded. From there the album never lets its foot of the gas, every song is a highlight. The occasional duets with Marty Slayton add emotional fuel to the fire, sounding as vocally perfect as anything which Oldham has put down on record. As such songs like “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise”, “Joy and Jubilee” and “Maundering” are as engaging songs as Oldham has ever written.
Overall, the mood is one of quiet reflection and introspection, something which Bonnie Prince Billy excels at and although “I See A Darkness” may overall be a better record it is almost equalled by this.
Go and buy. Let the fun begin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle genius, 18 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Master And Everyone (MP3 Download)
As with most of the work Will Oldham has been involved in this album has that subtle genius that creeps up on you after a few listens, on the face of it he doesn't seem too far removed from the glut of American singer songwriters plowing the alt-country furrow but then his twist of a lyric or a sudden sweetness in his delivery shines through.
I love "I see a darkness" but this is a more consistent set and for me his best album.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The reviewers have reason, to mistranslate the French., 3 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
At the time of writing, this album has 17 reviews, only one of which falls short of the full five stars. Shame on you, but you are forgiven! Albums like this are exceptional. They make reviewing them extremely difficult. How do you review something, the quality of which, you have never heard before? Listening to the first track, "The Way", leaves you floundering. When did you last hear anything so beautiful? And then the rest of the album plays..!!! You know the man has written some weird stuff in his time, and will, in time , write more of the same. And it's all wonderful! This is like an unbroken pond surface, on the verge of being invaded by mayfly! As they say in Scotland, "Gaun yersel!!". To respond to reviewers, assuming they are all French speakers,..... Vous avez raison!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly beautiful, 25 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
This is distilled brilliance. You will ache with its loveliness. Nothing is wasted. Reminds me of reading James Salter in that sense.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bearded bard returns to form, 28 Jan. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Master And Everyone (Audio CD)
This album marks a significant development in the career of Will Oldham, the man behind the 'Bonnie Prince Billy' moniker. He continues to eschew demotic arrangements, prefering to continue in his own quietly passionate manner. The playful ribaldry of the slightly disappointing 'Ease down the Road' is, for the most part, avoided: in its place we find a sense of frustration at the inability of those around him to comprehend him, to accept him for what it is that he feels constitutes him. Much of his work here is so good that it would not seem out of place on one of Leonard Cohen's early albums. Though it is invidious to make such a suggestion in January, this may very well prove to be the best album of 2003. Even if it does not, it is a superb piece of work which ought to be purchased by anyone who admires, amongst others, Cohen, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, The Blue Nile etc. Buy it!
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