And Other's Hearts Are Guarded From The Blows of Random Pain

Lie Down in the Light by Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Prior to tonight, I've never actually listened to Will Oldham. This is a truly shameful feat on my part, considering his almost ubiquitous presence in folk music. Immediately evident is that Lie Down In The Light explores themes of comfort, God, love, and emotional aches, all with the air of finality and peace.

Musically, Oldham uses many standard veins of American music (gospel, folk, and country), but remains fresh and inventive. Overall, the album feels at once familiar but surprising; "So Everyone" features a washboard-sounding type of percussion, while the title track (if you pay really close attention) makes use of a little springish "boing" in the background and "For Every Field There Is A Mole" also features a surprising jazzy clarinet solo. The lyrics follow this pattern as well — "So Everyone" seems like your usual girl/guy duet until Oldham and Webber sing "O kneel down and please me/O lady O boy/Show how you want me/And do it so everyone sees me." Oldham and Webber again take the girl/boy formula and take a refreshing twist in "You Want That Picture", depicting a romance in ruins.

Thematically, Lie Down In The Light is a comforting album of reassurance in the light of doubt. In the opener "Easy Does It", Oldham sings "I number the friends and the family that love me/I welcome the ring of the moonlight above me/and I wander, and lay in whatever old bed/With good, earthly music singing into my head." The song itself opens on a note of resignation in which Oldham is faced with "only one thing [he] can do", but by the time he's numbered his friends and family, a happy little piano breaks through and Oldham admits "There's my brothers, my girlfriends/my mom, and my dad/and there's me/and that's all there needs to be". This feeling of deriving simple pleasures is present also on "You Remind Me of Something (The Glory Goes)", in which Oldham sings "I like the places where the night does not mean an end/where smiles break free/and surprise is your friend/and dancing goes on in the kitchin/until dawn to my favorite song/that has no end". There are also two standout tracks that directly reference Gospel; "For Every Field There Is A Mole" is a different take on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 while "I'll Be Glad" references Psalm 23:1 and explores (and testifies) Oldham's faith and trust in God.

"Missing One" and "What's Missing Is" explore different facets of something being missed; in "Missing One" Oldham refers to the specific melancholy of missing someone, though he ends with "I know I will continue/to try and please you/and even in some ways/to try and be you." "What's Missing Is", however, discusses the emptiness of meaningless relationships.

The most explored theme on the album, however, is starting a new family. In "(Keep Eye On) Other's Gain" begins with Oldham stating "there's only so much here upon the earth to go around", coming to the conclusion that it's necessary to "keep your loved ones near". By the second half, Oldham describes familial needs ("You need me at the table/sitting down and nodding grace/and holding you just by/laying kisses on your face"), coming to terms with one's responsibility to fend for the family and protect them from harm. By "Where is the Puzzle?", Oldham finds himself disappearing from his family and ready to start anew, singing "And I want only you/and I trust only you/and I want only to/sing you". This theme of beginning a new family culminates in "Lie Down In The Light", where Oldham juxtaposes the sadness of life ("time and again one of us falls behind") with starting a family together (Who's gonna hold my heart/Who's gonna be my own own own?/Who's gonna know when all is dark/that she is not alone?"). Oldham wisely does not promise ease and bliss ("Heed this word: beware/for my heart's ways are unclear") but invites you all the same to lie down in the light.

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