New Weird America

Today’s Pitchfork features an extract from staffer Amanda Petrusich’s new book It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways and the Search for the Next American Music, which takes an in-depth look at the modern avant folk movement and how the notion of Americana is ever shifting, with the melding of traditional folk, bluegrass, country and so on with more modern and/or experimental sounds.

In the extract published on Pitchfork, Petrusich quotes Will Oldham in a rare interview with The Observer from 2002. Despite owning a significant amount of his body of work, I’ve always found Oldham to be an enigmatic artist who leaves me wondering what’s going on (perhaps wrongly) behind that mighty beard. The article only serves to reinforce his elusiveness:

‘I do not want a personal relationship with my fans,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘Or to do anything that encourages them to think they have one with me. They can have a personal relationship with my songs. That’s fine, but they don’t know me. Likewise the idea that they can get to know me through an interview. That’s an absurd notion.’

Maybe that’s why Oldham’s music continues to be essential, because it continues to buck the trend of a carefully managed image being critical to an artist’s success. This year’s Lay Down in the Light was released to the minimum of fanfare: you buy a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album for the songs, nothing else. Plus a little mystery never hurts.

Petrusich’s book is out now in the US and available as an import at Amazon. For further insight into the book, check out Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes feature, where the author picks songs relevant to her work.

The Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy live album, Is It the Sea? (with Harem Scarem and Alex Nielsen) is out 20 October on Domino.

Video: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I Gave You

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