Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Ease Down the Road (Palace): As he returns to his "proper" guise as songwriter, Will Oldham's second turn as thee bonnie prince finds an album with a laid-back, casual, charming demeanor. The resulting warm, hearty, countrified sound recalls of the ensemble feel of Palace records like There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You and Viva Last Blues. Dave Pajo helms a troupe of likely cats, ranging from Oldham brethren through Freakwater's Catherine Irwin to cinematic enfant-terrible Harmony Korine. Oldham seems to have finally forsaken that Southern-folksy pseudo-biblical torn-and-tested-man persona that arose around him, then consumed him in his conscious construction of songs. Instead, he tackles his next-favorite lyrical topic: sex. More precisely, he writes odes about love, fucking, that confused ground of the relations between the sensations, and the eternal question of whether they are perpetually divorced, or one and the same. At other times, well, Willy O's just singing words that rhyme. — Anthony Carew

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