Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubador
(Drag City)

Will Oldham has long considered Merle Haggard one of his heroes. He’s performed his songs throughout his career, sung his praises and even recently interviewed Haggard before his death last year.
Perhaps it’s been a long time coming then that Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy, pay tribute with an album of Merle Haggard cover songs. Best Troubador exceptionally does so tapping songs that Oldham personally treasured and not necessarily the most well-known songs in Haggard’s catalog either. Oldham typically puts his own spin on other songwriters’ songs and that is the case here with many of them having a late-night, noir ambiance with a healthy dose of saxophones, lap-steel guitar and smokey hues. There’s rollicking stuff too like his version of “Leonard” and “The Fugitive” but this is by and large, Bonnie Prince Billy celebrating Haggard in a reflective state. “The Day The Rains Came” and “Roses In The Winter” are deliberate in their pace but stoically beautiful at the same time while the lo-fi production behind “If I Could Only Fly” recall Oldham’s early days in Palace. Oldham’s excellent version of “I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall” showcases Drew Miller’s saxophone and perfectly encapsulates Haggard’s down-and-out mood that he so regularly lived in.
There’s not many songwriters up to the task of channeling Merle Haggard’s spirit in song. Will Oldham was certainly up for the challenge on Best Troubador and you’d be well served to listen in. (Dom)
Check out a track here.