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Master & Everyone

38 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 28, 2003
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Product Description

The third full-length album under the Bonnie Prince Billy moniker from roots-absorbed singer/songwriter WILL OLDHAM (PALACE). Ten deeply introspective songs of self-love, emotional struggle, and complex relationships, featuring backing from friends TONY CROW, WILLIAM TYLER, MATT SWANSON, MARTY SLAYTON, and brother PAUL OLDHAM.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, a.k.a. Will Oldham, is no ordinary bard. His writing, which can call to mind 19th-century American poets like Walt Whitman, has won him a cult of fans that include Marianne Faithfull, Björk, and Beck. Master's painfully fragile intensity is disconcerting and challenging, yet its purity and tenderness is soothing all the same. Dark, intimate, and sparsely arranged, it's a loose, meditative concept record that explores issues of gender, self, and love. Here Oldham trades in his familiar warble for a hushed, clear high tenor and a rock band for his acoustic guitar; ever-so-soft strings and keyboards warm up the arrangements while he is backed by Marty Slayton's sweet, feminine harmonies. Lyrically less dense than previous releases, Master does retain Oldham's typically quaint phrasings, as in "Ain't You Wealthy, Ain't You Wise?" and "Joy and Jubilee." With a few listens, these 10 oddly gentle songs will endear themselves, and perhaps prove Master to be Oldham's best and most personal work to date. --Jillian Steinberger
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 28, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Drag City
  • ASIN: B000083ME8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,944 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I recently pulled out my old copy of "There's No One What Will Take Care of You" and gave it a listen. That album is still outstanding but what's truly incredible is how much Will Oldham has evolved over just the last eight or nine years. Ever since first taking on the Bonnie Prince title a few years back he has reached a new plateau in his song writing. Where "I See A Darkness" was bleak and frightened and "Ease Down The Road" was drunken and melancholic, "Master and Everyone" is much more subtle album. It is more endearing than "Ease Down The Road" and at the same time more devestating than "I See A Darkness." It is a collection of some of the most resonant and profound songs I have heard in the last... well, ever. The writing and presentation work hand in hand to bring out the emotions this album inspires. At once a work of great beauty and great sadness, I can say without reservation that this album is my favorite of all Oldham's releases, and I've heard almost every last thing he's done. Only a talent like Oldham could make a line like "It's a hard life for a man with no wife" ring with deep resonancy and continue to haunt with a transcendant melancholy. Have you figured it out yet? I LIKE THIS ALBUM!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dan Grissom on January 24, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This album, like most great albums doesn't jump out at you right away saying, "I'm a Great Album." Instead it sort of weasels it's way into your mind until you realize that you haven't taken it out of your cd player in about two weeks. Then you leave it in for another two weeks, because you finally realize how great it really is.

The pace of this album is very slow, and the instrumentation is minimal. It's the type of thing you'd play to just wind down and relax. But honestly, it's hard to relax when you're hanging off of every word this guy is singing.

Bonnie Prince Billy, in my opinion, is this generation's Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen as far as lyrics go. His lyrics on this album are the type that you may not get right away, but when you do understand what he's talking about, you love the album even more. Every song on this album is fantastic. At first listen, a few tracks seem to stand out more than others (not that any of them are bad), but as this album gets into your heart, you realize that every track is essential to the one behind it and before, therefore creating what I call a great album.

So Will Oldham, if you are reading this, please never stop making music.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dash Amfleck on March 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Having long ignored Will Oldham's previous output due mostly to pursuit of music in other genres, but not immune to the seemingly endless stream of effusive critical praise he garners, I finally became overwhelmed with curiosity and decided to purchase one of his Bonnie "Prince" Billy albums. Most reviews of "Master and Everyone" cite "I See a Darkness" as Oldham's definitive artistic statement. Ultimately, I purchased both, and discovered they are very different albums, with very different merits to recommend them.
Having listened to both records several times now, I find myself far more impressed with this latest offering. "I See a Darkness" benefits from inspired contributions from talented collaborators, and the counterpoint Oldham creates between gloomy atmosphere and dark energy is terrific, as are the song structures and lyrics. Yet I believe "Master and Everyone" is a far more mature, intimate and above all else subtle piece of work. Perhaps not enough has been said about the production on this album. The gorgeous cello arrangement that underpins "The Way" serves as a lead for an album's worth of other austere and effective flourishes, including naked tambourine rasps, ghostly organ drones and even a well-placed accordian. These elements and others, together with the rich, sure quality of Oldham's voice, result in a work of tremendous control that is haunting and resonant.
It's been said that a great work of art is defined by how much of it you can remove without sacrificing its intensity. Lilting and refined, "Master and Everyone" is a sonorous study in perfect economy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By r lee on February 21, 2006
Format: Audio CD
When critics reference Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, they tend to emphasize the shortcomings of everything following I See a Darkness. Heck, it's no wonder. Pitchfork's Samir Khan hit the nail squarely on the head, stating in his 10.0 review that ISaD is "not music." Indeed, that enigmatic album stands out as something of the "other"--from its skull-centered cover to its gypsy-funeral feel.

True, Master and Everyone echoes neither the ghost-folk eeriness of I See a Darkness nor the family-reunion feel evinced by its follow-up, Ease Down the Road. Nonetheless, when considered song-by-song, MaE represents BPB's most cohesive, melodic (though sparse) work. In fact, I would argue that it is--taken as an entire album--"better" than I See a Darkness.

Master and Everyone retains the gut-wrenching honesty set forth in ISaD. What it does in addition, though, is strip away the Halloween spirits and fiery chants. Rather, Master penetrates to the inner feelings that fuelled these chilling displays. One senses a strong degree of solitude in songs such as "Master and Everyone" and "Wolf Among Wolves". I cannot help but picture a broken man, sitting alone on his prairie porch, defeated by love, war, and/or life writ large.

This brokenness seems intense, yet it is not final. In "Maundering" and "Lessons...", BPB grabs hold of something--a hope born of faith, love, and humanity. The fact these songs feature little more than the barest of guitar strums effectively places our attention on the vocals--on the man whose ever-fluctuating cycle of direction and despair we are witnessing.

The album's closing track, "Hard Life", provides a fitting end to the sentiments expressed therein. Whether or not such is its intent, BPB's last number conveys a feeling of...
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Topic From this Discussion
What would be Bonnie Prince Billy's (Will Oldham) darkest album?
I don't know why you associate "upbeat" with "country". Two of Oldham's pure country songs come from I See a Darkness: "Today I was an Evil One" and "I See a Darkness" (the Johnny Cash version with Will Oldham backing vocals).

A lot of Oldham's records... Read More
Nov 4, 2009 by Stephen Ebrey |  See all 2 posts
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Master & Everyone
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