The warmer months in Santa Fe usually mean that our options for live music enjoyment open up and show after show goes down with reckless abandon. The Bandstand is in full effect, bars and restaurants are doing all they can to fill their patios with tunes and promoters who have been surviving off of meager winter turnouts start pulling in bigger and better names with more frequency. Thus far, we’ve enjoyed the art and music of Dome Fest and Currents, and other huge parties like the annual AHA Festival and the New Mexico Jazz Festival are on the horizon. It’s all really cool stuff, but the one drawback (if there really is one) to many of these events is the divisive nature built into each. Obviously, there is no way to please everyone all of the time, and depending on whom you speak with, the shows and fests of summer are either the greatest thing(s) ever or they’re, well, not.
If you ask me, these events are all wonderful, but wouldn’t it be cool if there was an upcoming show that was going to bring Santa Fe together and unite us under one musical banner? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one magical artist could be all things to all people while simultaneously kicking ass and bringing super-rad songs?
Enter Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
With a voice as smooth as honey and lyrics that convey a worldly-wise view on the topics of love and loss and all parts in between, Oldham has proven a prolific and brilliant songwriter who can speak to any music fan from behind a marvelous blend of country, pop, Americana, indie and—I’m just gonna say it—emo. Whether it’s melancholy solo sounds that journey from sadness to hope to appreciation heard on records like 2006’s The Letting Go, or a fresh perspective on beloved Everly Brothers tunes courtesy of Oldham and collaborator Dawn McCarthy on 2013’s What the Brothers Sang, Bonnie “Prince” Billy seems poised to sneak right in under many Santa Feans’ radar for his upcoming Railyard Concert Series show on Sunday, July 13. But hear me now, Santa Fe—to miss this would be a shame.
Y’see, Oldham has a deceptive and almost genre-less style of intimate songwriting that skirts well-known musical convention and carves a unique niche all its own. Nestled someplace between the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack in its almost bluegrassy fingerpicking/complex yet traditional classic country vocal patterns and the lo-fi indie rock takeover of the mid-to-late ’90s, these are songs that demand attention.
Yes, there will be quiet and introspective moments of beauty, but there will also be relatable tales layered beneath gorgeous guitar work and told with a vocal style that just about screams for you to close your eyes and pay close attention. In other words, country and Americana fans will be drawn to the intelligent and spontaneous music itself, indie and emo fans will be drawn to the lyrical content and, if they’re smart, young people (and I’m talking younger than 30) will be drawn to Oldham’s endlessly impressive ability to draw from so many enticing corners of the American musical lexicon and combine them into a wholly listenable package.
Of all the traveling acts to hit Santa Fe in recent memory, Bonnie “Prince” Billy is perhaps the first to be so accessible to so many. And whereas Santa Fe can sometimes play host to bands and artists whose heyday may have passed, Oldham’s upcoming show proves to be one of the more relevant we’ve had in ages.
There’s a lot of talk about local support for the scene flying about lately (more so than usual, actually), but keep in mind that we’ll only continue to get such stellar out-of-town acts if we support the non-local as well. Plus, the damn thing is outside and free, so don’t screw it up.