Three Queens in Mourning & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Hello Sorrow – Hello Joy (2020) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Three Queens in Mourning & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Hello Sorrow – Hello Joy (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 50:11 minutes | 664 MB | Genre: Indie Folk
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Textile Records

This is what happens when you invite Alasdair Roberts (Appendix Out) , Jill O’ Sullivan (Jill Lorean) and Alex Neilson (Trembling Bells, Alex Rex) to gather and sing work from Will Oldham’s book of collected lyrics, ‘Songs of Love and Horror’. The latter – best known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – has long had a startling reputation for the kind of atmospheric songs and songwriting that transcends the ages, with the meditative ‘Stablemate’, used to open this exceptional special release, a case in point. The sense of foreboding atmosphere doesn’t even wane when other artists get involved with their own interpretation. Of course things don’t all sound so hypnotic and spellbinding. ‘Lost Blues’ is the kind of Americana that has been made for eons, and still isn’t tired. ‘I See A Dark’ is a beautiful piece of violin-heavy vintage folk, and ‘Wild Dandelion’ closes on a campfire dance high.

When depraved folk troubadour Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) collected several decades of song lyrics in the form of his 2018 book Songs of Love and Horror, Three Queens In Mourning was put together as a backing band for the ensuing tour. Made up of Oldham friends and collaborators Alasdair Roberts, Jill O’Sullivan, and Alex Neilson, the band learned select favorites from Oldham’s extensive catalog and helped illustrate just how foundational a figure in American songwriting he’d grown to be over the years. Hello Sorrow Hello Joy is a strange continuation of that tribute, with Three Queens In Mourning covering 12 of Oldham’s best-known or most-loved tunes and Bonnie “Prince” Billy himself filling out the release with three covers and one original. Oldham’s songs have roots in U.K. and American folk music, twisting traditional melodies around dark lyrics and delivering them with a nontraditional singing voice. His distinctive voice is a huge part of his music, and hearing his songs sung by restrained, harmonizing Scottish voices highlights the songs’ traditional folk elements. Reworked Appalachian melodies of tunes like “Ohio River Boat Song” and “Trudy Dies” sound more old-fashioned and bookish where the originals were creaky and painfully melancholy. O’Sullivan’s bounding violin and Neilson’s shuffling drums make some of Oldham’s most depressive songs feel almost peppy. The set list is largely well-known tunes like “I See a Darkness” and “New Partner,” but it also gets into more obscure selections. Particularly beautiful is the brief “Christmas Time in the Mountains,” a tune from an early Palace EP that communicates love, anger, and acceptance in its 74-second running time. Three Queens In Mourning’s dutiful covers are graceful and reverent, and taken on their own they amount to a sweet tribute to Oldham’s weighty songwriting. The addition of four tracks from Oldham himself disrupts the flow in a couple of ways. After an album’s worth of cover renditions of his songs, hearing the genuine artifact is a little jarring. The concept is solid — Three Queens In Mourning covers Oldham, and Oldham offers up covers of songs written by each of the band’s three members and one original — but when Oldham’s voice glides in on his rendering of Roberts’ “Coral & Tar,” he makes the song his own instantly. Even though he only shows up for a quarter of the album, the huge arrangements of Oldham’s cover material and his unmistakable voice are almost distracting from the staid, pastoral readings of his songs that Three Queens In Mourning have just finished presenting. Hello Sorrow Hello Joy is an interesting addition to Oldham’s never-ending body of work. Like almost everything else connected to him, it’s beautiful, strange, and a little unsettling in equal shares. – Fred Thomas


1. Three Queens in Mourning – Stablemate
2. Three Queens in Mourning – Christmas Time In the Mountains
3. Three Queens in Mourning – Lost Blues
4. Three Queens in Mourning – Madeleine – Mary
5. Three Queens in Mourning – No More Workhouse Blues
6. Three Queens in Mourning – No Such As I Want
7. Three Queens in Mourning – I See A Darkness
8. Three Queens in Mourning – Trudy Dies
9. Three Queens in Mourning – Tonight’s Decision
10. Three Queens in Mourning – Darling
11. Three Queens in Mourning – New Partner
12. Three Queens in Mourning – Ohio Riverboat Song
13. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Coral & Tar
14. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Coward’s Song
15. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Dead Man’s Island
16. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Wild Dandelion Rose