What makes a good live album? That chance shout from the audience between songs, such as the famous ‘Judas!’ at Dylan’s 1966 Manchester gig, recaptured in the Bootleg series? Or simply an artist at the height of their powers, such as Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, recorded between After the Gold Rush and Harvest? With Is It The Sea?, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s 2006 concert at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall (reviewed here), it is the latter. In place of normal audience interaction there is a palpable sense of bewitched reverence, even retrospectively on this CD. Performing with local trad talents Harem Scarem (on vocal harmonies, fiddles and flute) and Alex Neilson (drums), Will Oldham sings rousing versions of older tracks like A Minor Place, traditional standards like Molly Bawm and previews of his then upcoming album The Letting Go, most notably the majestic Cursed Sleep. In true B’P’B style, this album is a real slow-burner, but it only adds to Oldham’s reputation as a modern Dylan or Young.
Is It The Sea? is out on 20 October via Domino.