Review Summary: He's okay, he's better than the rest.
Sentimental music is easily the most difficult kind for one to convey their thoughts about without sounding like a complete idiot. Perhaps this is why it's so difficult to review almost anything Will Oldham has put his name towards; hell, I'd even say it's difficult to describe
anything he's put out. His voice warbles uncomfortably between alt-country twang and Appalachian folk, despite being a Kentucky-bred boy closer to Slint than Woodie Guthrie. Casting all this aside though, the one thing that defines Oldham's output is sparseness; letting the room be open and letting notes linger. He's not the type to beat you over the head with a sad line or melody, instead employing an almost embarrassed delivery of his sad words, albeit with some humor behind his stache. On Master and Everyone
, Oldham's sparse qualities truly reach a breaking point. It's just a man and a guitar in a cold room.
Master and Everyone
takes sparseness to a whole new level, almost being comparable to Pink Moon
in just how shockingly lonely it seems. Despite this, it's easily one of Oldham's most beautiful pieces of work, and undoubtedly his most delicate. It's very much an album all about little tiny details, such as the deathly-silent count-off that starts the album on "The Way," the weird windy sounds on "Wolf Among Wolves," or the creepy ambience that starts "Joy and Jubilee." Oldham is a master at just crafting warm pieces of music that don't necessarily beat you up with their sadness or despair, as much as they do comfort you when you're alone or barely awake. That's perhaps the greatest strength of the album in general; it's difficult to call it a sad album, because I've literally put this on in every mood I can think of. I've put this on when I'm driving up north to the woods in Maine, first-thing in the morning at the record store I work at, during chill times with friends and family at home, or when I'm at my lowest and I just need a hug; Oldham provides all that.
I'm gonna digress a bit and tell the story of how Will came into my life by accident, because it always amuses me in retrospect. At the record store I now work at, they make what they call "Grab Bags" basically of discarded CDs that are sold back to them used, which are sold for like $1 each (15 CDs per bag, I think). Anyway, my buddy and I used to go every weekend and buy a bunch of these and see what we got, and one time he got a promo of this album in one of those grab bags. I remember him literally pulling into my driveway out of the blue and telling me "You have to fu
cking hear this!" I remember not fully getting it at the time, but knowing Will Oldham as the guy who hung out with the members of Slint, so I thought it was cool. Sure enough, he's ended up being one of my favorites since then. Perhaps this sentimentality is why I held off writing this for so long, but oh well.