Bonnie "Prince" Billy – Get On Jolly EP

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Get On Jolly EP

The Marquis de Tren and Bonny “Prince” Billy (aka Mick Turner of The Dirty Three and Will Oldham) offer up some dark and brooding music on Get On Jolly. Upon hearing of this collaboration, I was filled with optimism at the idea of these two making music together. The actual record fails to meet the idea in my head but is a good listen none the less.
The music here is vague soudscapes courtesy of Turner’s guitar and sometimes harmonica. He’s able to render surprisingly full backgrounds for Oldham’s wavering vocals. It’s hard to tell what is going with Turner’s guitar. Sometimes it sounds like several at once, but having seen him perform solo, I know he can muster waves upon waves of guitar without overdubbing. He has the amazing abilty to make me forget that I’m listening to a guitar and to just let go and listen to the music without dissecting in my head (a fault common among guitar players in the inablilty to listen to music without analyzing the guitar part).
Oldham keeps his contribution minimal. He half-speak/sings his words without ever managing to get much of a real melody. Oddly, though, this fits perfect with the mood. These are a kind of minimalist sound poems. The lyrics here are adaptations of the work of early 20th century Bengli poet Rabindranth Tagore. Get On Jolly is a funny way to Anglacize the title of the poetry collection the words are from – “Gitanjali.”
While I was hoping for a full-on collaboration by these two musical heavyweights, I’ll have to be satisfied with this. It has the feel of what it is, a side project and a interesting listen. I hope that Oldham and Turner at some point have the time for an album that doesn’t seem so tossed off (perhaps with Jim White also of The Dirty Three / The Tren Brothers to give the songs some needed backbone).