Review Summary: Country done right. Rivals "I See a Darkness" as Will Oldham's greatest achievement.
Will Oldham is a singer/songwriter hailing from the state of Kentucky. Fans of Slint may know him as he wrote some linear notes on the re-release of Spiderland. Since the early 90s Will has released many albums under various names. The most acclaimed of these is 1999's "I See a Darkness", which he released under Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and is probably his most famous due to the title track being covered by Johnny Cash. Before he adopted that moniker however, he was releasing albums as Palace Music, and Viva Last Blues is the best album he made under this name.
Released in 1995 and produced by the prolific Steve Albini, this album has all the trademarks of a great folk album. Great melodies, heartfelt vocals and lyrics to match. The overall style of the album could be described as "alternative country", basically country/folk music with a more indie or contemporary feel to it.
Every song has memorable parts to it. The guitar playing on the first track especially being a highlight. The lyrics and particularly the vocal melodies shine best on the song "New Partner", which is nothing short of beautiful. Overall this album has a more upbeat feel to it than I See a Darkness yet it is still vintage Oldham. It is also perhaps more rocking, as the song "Work Hard/Play Hard" showcases Oldham at his most energetic.
The production on the album is excellent, as you would expect from a Steve Albini produced album. Everything is given room to breathe and it has a very stripped down and homely feel overall throughout.
This album is just simply Country done right, and it even rivals "I See a Darkness" as Will Oldham's greatest achievement. Superb album.