A wonderful act of tenderness and a welcome return to the singular voice of Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
It’s been a long while since listeners have been treated to a full-blown, Bonnie “Prince” Billy album from project mastermind Will Oldham. But over the last decade, Oldham has definitely not been silent—he has focused mostly on covers, collaborations and even some reinterpretations of his own work. This steady work has kept Oldham on the top of his game, and it shows on the deep and optimistic I Made A Place.
“You need to knock this one out of the park”, Oldham sings at the start of the record, as if setting himself a goal as a person who understands the odd opportunity to exist for a while. With so much of the sound of the album resting within the known realm of country and folk, the focus of I Made A Place, as it has with so much of Oldham’s work in the past, turns to the poetry. The architecture of many of the songs begins from a place of anxiety, discouragement or loss, but Oldham attempts to build a sort of peace with the absurdity of life by some means of action or philosophical approach. “Dream Awhile” is a gentle lullaby that preaches relief from trouble through the simple act of rest. The linear narrative of “Look Backward On Your Future, Look Forward to Your Past” sees a man named Richard become obsessed with the titular motto and essentially boils down to a tale of an idiot that signifies nothing. “The Glow Pt. 3” — a title that winks towards Phil Elverum — is an Arthurian narrative of depression, worry and romance.
Fortunately, the music is yet another success from the prolific songwriter, and Oldham seems to think he’s doing okay at this whole life thing as well, singing on the title track, “I don’t know why I was born, but I have made a place”. While yes, there is a bleakness to the concepts of these songs—a concept not unfamiliar to the world of Bonnie “Prince” Billy or Will Oldham— acceptance and hope in the face of meaninglessness and absurdity may be best represented on a song like “This Is Far from Over,” wherein Oldham welcomes eternity. “Building a Fire” closes the album with an image of brightness, warmth and connection.
On an album where Oldham delves as deep into existential philosophy as he ever has, a piercing sense of hope, or at least of comfort, come through. I Made A Place is a wonderful act of tenderness and a welcome return to the singular voice of Bonnie “Prince” Billy.