I came late to Will Oldham, but 'I See A Darkness' is a near perfect collection of acoustic singer-songwriting. It starts with the gentle nod of 'A Minor Place' which recalls the Decemberists' literacy and Neutral Milk Hotel's pronounced sense of atmosphere and place. This opening is relatively upbeat. From then on in, his gentle, forlorn tales of love, and more commonly loss, make contemporaries Iron & Wine sound playful, newcomer Bon Iver sociable.
There is an awkwardness to the spotlight, but one that is compensated for in the virtually unparalleled beauty of Oldham's craft. This is a condensing of Neil Young and Nick Drake. 'Today I Was An Evil One' allows the country influences to shine, 'Knockturne' and album closer 'Raining In Darling' are piano-led ballads to rival those of Nick Cave. But it is the title track that steals the show, an unplugged prophecy of doom of breath-taking and tear-jerking beauty equivalent to, if not surpassing, Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah'.
As close to perfection as is possible for the genre.