Bonnie Prince Billy and Trembling Bells
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This UK tour presents the Trembling Bells playing, singing and duelling with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy performing a new collection of songs written by the Trembling Bells some of which appear on the forthcoming collaborative album 'The Marble Downs' on Honest Jon's. This will be the first time these songs are going to be performed live.
Trembling Bells lead vocalist Lavinia Blackwall will sing in duet with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. Alex Neilson, the chief songwriter for the Trembling Bells, plays drums, while Simon Shaw on bass and Mike Hastings on guitar make up the pack. Originals, covers and traditionals will be featured in the sets.
With a limited Christmas 7” single already under their belts, Trembling Bells and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy kick off 2012 with a collaborative album of male/female vocal duets.
Alex Neilson has synthesized his love of seat-of-your-pants improv and raw folk into his songwriting with the Bells. While Bonnie has long since shed the Appalachian dirt of his earlier records to enter a fertile period of grace. Now these paths converge on ´The Marble Downs´.
Bonnie has a habit of seeking out commanding female voices and he doubtlessly viewed the pairing with Lavinia Blackwall as a gift. His Southern gent tones provide an intriguing contrast to her archetypal English Folk siren vocals. But the chemistry between them goes beyond the purely musical. Their vocal exchanges remind us that the classic male/female duet is, at its best, a sublimation of love, sex and treachery acted out in flirtatious, freewheeling duels. The songs are mostly Bells’ originals, with two inspired covers and a traditional.
The epic opener, “I Made a Date (With an Open Vein)” rises on a cloud of drums, brass, vocal harmonies and Michael Hastings’ guitar line that drips like electric honey. From there we pass through Grand Ole Opry style sing alongs (“I Can Tell You’re Leaving”), Renaissance fanfares (“Ferrari in a Demolition Derby”), spectral ballads (“Excurions into Assonance”) and full-throttle Psych Rock propulsion (“Ain’t Nothing Wrong with a Little Longing”).
The band also prove themselves to be inventive interpreters of other people’s songs with a penis-shrivelling reading of the traditional “My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him”, a kosmiche revamping of Robin Gibbs’ “Lord Bless All” and a pummeling version of the early Palace song, “Riding”.
The Marble Downs is a triumphant exercise in major key ensemble playing concerned with minor key heartbreak, and a marriage of some of the most mercurial and imaginative musicians of our time.
Then comes the shows which will encompass a special select route around the South West of England with support from Routes South West to take place around the 'Obby Oss' May Day celebrations.
Based in Glasgow, Trembling Bells are a group of 21st century troubadours who know their history, joyously attempting to synthesise traditional folk forms with the bathetic romanticism of country music, the deceptive complexity of medieval music and the swagger of classic Rock. Medieval ballads, Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan are the guiding lights in a music that embraces British folk-rock, American roots and electric psychedelia. The band are at ease with such an open set of influences, effortlessly combining and personalising these superficially disparate musical forms, generating a sound that is saturated in the myths and mysteries of their native terrain but also startlingly original.
Trembling Bells have enjoyed much success since their inception in 2008. The band have gained favour with such musical titans as Joe Boyd, Paul Weller, The Unthanks and Mike Heron (Incredible String Band) as well as unanimous critical acclaim for their three albums, Carbeth and Abandoned Love, The Constant Pageant (all on Honest Jons records). They featured heavily in the Wire cover story alongside Alasdair Roberts documenting the emerging adventurous folk scene in Scotland (Caledonia Dreaming, March 2010), while also being mentioned in Rob Young's book, Electric Eden.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
The singer/song writer and actor Will Oldham (AKA Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) has released over 20 albums and numerous other music formats, predominantly on Drag City and Domino records. He is a popular and cult figure who, through his mix of honesty and enigma, has created a canon of work that is regarded very highly throughout the world. He cleverly twists American (and other) folk/roots heritage into new shapes and forms, all presented with his uncompromising indie ethics. His songs can be sweet and open-hearted or detached and cracked. He has an ability to sound ancient and modern, intimate and carefree.
He has worked numerous musicians including his brothers as well as David Pajo (Papa M), Bjork, Sean O'Hagan and Matt Sweeney of Chavez and Zwan, Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy, Jim O'Rourke and the Dirty Three's Jim White. He picks his collaborations and counterpoints extremely well.
Defining career releases include Ease Down The Road, Viva Last Blues, Lie Down In The Light and his 1993 debut There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You.