Title: Among The Gold
Format: 10" Single
Label: Karate Body
Catalogue Number: KBR0025
Year of Release: 2009
A1 Only A Dream
A2 Love's Old Sweet Song
A3 Beautiful Dreamer
B1 Kiss Me Again
B2 Let Me Call You Sweetheart
B3 Silver Threads Among The Gold
In recent times I've found Bonnie 'Prince' Billy much more interesting in the smaller vinyl formats than full length LPs. The exception to this being 2008's double live set from Edinburgh, but in which opinion I may be a little biased. Certainly Poor Shelter was excellent, whilst Beware and Lie Down In The Light were not without faults. I've got the new tour 7" on order, and am hoping for good things.
This collection of duets with Cheyenne Mize (previously unknown to me, but a Kentucky-based singer and fiddler, I since found out) comprises six duets of material from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The oldest is 1864's Beautiful Dreamer, the most recent 1915's Kiss Me Again. And given the span in time this record covers, it's remarkable how same-y they sound. You'd think 50 years of songwriting might have brought some innovation, but apparently not.
This isn't to say they aren't good, I was just surprised by that. I'm a fan of the cover version, as I've mentioned before, but I think cover versions are a more modern phenomenon, as a song is more likely now to become famous through the artist or band that wrote it. All these songs were from a period where songwriters were (generally speaking) not the performers of the material. Therefore whether these cannot be considered 'cover versions' in the modern sense (and in the way I like most, when a famous song is redone in the style of a different artist).
And although I'm unfamiliar with most of the source material, it would be fair to say that the versions here are faithful to the way the song was written and performed originally. Some of the songs, such as Let Me Call You Sweetheart (the only song I'm actually familiar with) is a barbershop quartet standard, and so performing it as a duet is slightly different to how some might know it. Others will know if from a mobile phone commercial, and it differs little from that. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy does a lovely whistle on it.
All this suffices to say that this 10" EP functions more as a historical recording of old material than anything else. And I guess it doesn't pretend to be anything more, but I'd still question the point of recording these particular six, or indeed any of them at all.
I don't get a great feeling of chemistry from the two performers, although they are both excellent singers. Cheyenne plays all the instruments, a task she does well. The B-side has my favourite numbers on it, and you can stream Let Me Call You Sweetheart, as well as Side A's Only A Dream, at Karate Body Records. The final track, and the one that lends its title to the EP, Silver Threads Among The Gold, is the stand-out for me, a simple but poignant meditation on growing old.
By no means essential, but nice to have. If you got one of the first 500 in cream-coloured vinyl, then lucky you. I was too slow.
And here's an interview with Miss Mize from Filter-Mag.