Rare, please!

Versions found only on the web
By MATT ASHARE  |  September 26, 2006

Bonnie “Prince” Billy
The Internet and all it represents has never struck me as fitting very well into the faux Appalachian, outsider-artist æsthetic that Will Oldham has cultivated for himself in his various Palace incarnations and, of late, as Bonnie “Prince” Billy. But even Oldham’s getting into the download game, albeit in his own slyly mysterious way. With a new album, The Letting Go, just out on Drag City, he’s posted an alternate take of one of its tunes. The catch: it’s not being promoted anywhere on the Web. You pretty much have to stumble across it or, like me, get a little nudge from the label. So I thought I’d give it a listen and see where it took me . . .

Bonnie “Prince” Billy, “Cursed Sleep” demo (mp3)
This demo version of the song has none of the strings or the smooth strumming of the album version. It’s darker and more rickety, and that suits the dark mood of the song. In fact, after hearing it, you may find yourself wondering what all those strings are doing on the album.

Bert Jansch, “The Black Swan” (mp3)
There are plenty of strings — of the bowed and the picked variety — on the title track by famed British folk artist Bert Jansch. It’s telling that Black Swan, which features Devendra Banhart and Beth Orton among others, is coming out on such a small label here in the US. Jansch just got a Mojo “merit award,” and BMG is handling distribution elsewhere. But he’s always been a cult artist in the States.

The Pastels, “Advice to the Graduate” (mp3)
Drag City artist David Berman has been hiding behind the Silver Jews name for more than a decade now, and that’s fine because at least he doesn’t keep changing his name. I couldn’t find anything all that rare by Berman himself, but this cover of the Silver Jews tune “Advice to the Graduate” by Scotland’s Pastels is nothing like the original and charmingly sweet with its swinging beat.

David Berman reading with the Impossible Shapes (mp3)
This audience recording of David Berman reading as David Berman the poet with backing from the band the Impossible Shapes is a nice idea. But the force of Berman’s voice and the imagery of the unnamed poem is blunted by the meandering guitar and hesitant backbeat. Either sing the damn words or get rid of the band.

Related: On the racks: September 19, 2006, Silver Jews, Silver Jew | Drag City DVD, More more >
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