Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubador review: a brilliant loveletter to Merle Haggard

Wed, May 3, 2017, 12:59


Best Troubador

bonnie Prince Billy



From opening song The Fugitive, it is clear that Will Oldham’s loveletter to the late US country music songwriter Merle Haggard is going to transmit deep joy - it’s there in the playful drums, and the way in which Oldham gleefully sings of a life on the run, “a rolling stone”.

All roads have led here for Oldham, whose love of Haggard’s work is profound. There is an essentialism between the two men, mingled with an expansiveness, and the record takes in 16 compositions, eclectic musical road signs in Haggard’s career. There is jazz on I Always Get Lucky With You, traditional elements on Leonard, and empathetic collaborations – including Virginia songwriter AJ Roach on the funereal The Day the Rains Came Down.

And then there is Haggard (Like I’ve Never Been Before), a loose, grizzled beauty distilling the connection that exists between the two men, and one brilliant worldview.