Bonnie Prince Billy - Best Troubador 2xLP
Label: Drag City
With Best Troubador, Bonnie Prince Billy pays homage to a long-time and forever hero, the late Merle Haggard. A singer who, some 25 years previously, first performed in public by playing a Merle Haggard song, Bonnie has often cited Merle’s work in performance, on records and in conversation with anyone who was around, even talking to Merle himself for Filter magazine in 2009. Merle’s body of work was considered by Bonnie for a record such as this for some time, but his passing in April of 2016 almost put a stop to it. The goal was to participate in the handing forward of the songs of a living legend, as Merle had done so many times in his own career. Best Troubador flips through his song book, landing on pages unmoored from their time and located anew. Moving from 1978 to 1969 to 2003 to 1981 allows the album to circle Haggard’s music in a simulation of thought and memory, slipping around from spot to spot as if they were discrete impressions, unknown but knowable yet. Dedicated to new life and old, Best Troubador is wistful and bittersweet and no lament at all, but a tribute instead, for the triumph of a life spent in unending pursuit of the goal: new and expressive music, as our inspirations and heroes once sang it.