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A record whose strength is also its weakness.
on 16 March 2001
Will Oldham adopts perhaps his most accessible persona yet with this material, but look closer and beneath the welcoming smile tends to be a verbal switchblade. Having adopted so many monikers and disguises (indeed even his current name can be seen as referencing the fugitive nature of both Bonnie Prince Charlie & Billy The Kid/ William Bonney, rather than the more benevolent nod to Nat 'King' Cole) Oldham seems proudest of his latest endeavour.
In terms of contemporaries "Ease Down The Road"s obvious reference point is to the works of Nick Cave, indeed Johnny Cash covered Cave's chilling "The Mercy Seat" as well as Bonnie "Prince" Billy's "I See a Darkness" on last year's "Solitary Man III". Oldham inhabits the same milieu of the Southern Gothic tradition, heavily informed by the Old Testament. Here the battle between love & hate is joined in the style favoured by "The Night Of The Hunter".
These are tales redolent of an older more primal America, far removed from the homogenized culture of Starbucks, Oldham uses a curiously formal style of language eschewing modern colloquialisms & delighting in the arcane.
These songs are suffused with sensuality, full of illicit passion & longing. Even a song as majestically beautiful as "After I Made Love to You" is really a paean to the joys of adulterous coupling. It is this piece which is the zenith of "Ease Down The Road" where the duet with Freakwater's Catherine Irwin hints at transcendence and provides a sublime experience. The rest of the record proves a disappointment in comparison to these stellar heights, but for "After I Made Love to You" alone this is music worth investigating.