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a 400-page interview with Alan Licht
At the end of this 2009 profile in the The New Yorker, Will Oldham says "I don't know. I really hate press. And it's . . . . yeah." And so a few years later he's published an official 400-page interview that can be used in lieu of ever doing interviews again. If someone wants to write a profile about him they can simply consult the master interview, recently published in the UK and due out in the fall in the US. For fans, it textually manifests the fantasy of sitting down for a few hours/days to chat with Will about his music and history and performance and identity and the Incredible Hulk. Also fantastic to turn down pages to look up so many musicians I didn't know: Solomon Burke, Oum Kalsoum, Roger Miller, Roy Harper, June Tabor. Otherwise, I first heard "For the Mekons et al" on the Hey Drag City compilation soon after it came out my first year after college and have kept up with every major release (and most minor ones) since then and seen him live maybe a dozen times, so as he talked about each album it brought back memories. It's clear that the music helped define so many personal eras/locales/situations, especially in the Nineties when I was extra-susceptible to exploring the songs, deeply associating with them, co-creating them over and over as I drove around. As I changed, so did the songs, so hearing him talk about how his approach matured meshed with things I've thought about my own maturation. Also great hearing about his collaborations with his own personal holy trinity of Johnny Cash, The Mekons, and R. Kelly. Would have liked some more talk about his family and relationships and all -- there's a suggestion of family wealth that had always been the rumor ("Oldham County"?): international family travel to India, Scotland, elsewhere, plus cabins on plots of lands in the woods, philanthrophy, etc) but he also delivered pizzas in Providence. Maybe would have liked thoughts on how class influenced the art he and friends made, especially the idealist indie approach? I can't think of another book-length interview, although Renegade by Mark E. Smith comes close (loved BPB's references to MES and the Fall, too). Would love to read Volume II in 2030 after BPB records another 20+ good albums (something to look forward to). Otherwise, for Will fans, this is major and essential. I read it slower than I usually do because I didn't want it to end. Would be interested in the opinions of people unfamiliar with his music, although I can't imagine anyone reading this who doesn't know everything from "The Ohio River Boat Song" to "Quail and Dumplings." Odd, also, reading this right after reading Conversations with David Foster Wallace -- it felt like taking the pulse of the two most important younger figures in music and lit I've followed since college ended. As Will says about David Grubbs at one point, it feels good to know that, early on, I put my money on winning horses. 

Just saw BPB with the Cairo Gang (Emmett Kelly) and Angel Olsen in Philadelphia. As you can see, Will wore yellow shorts and a pink long-sleeve dress shirt and little blue sneakers. Angel Olsen in particular commanded the crowd with stares and smiles and at times looked a lot like Anna Karina. The chemistry among them made it mesmerizing, not to mention the new campfire sing-along strummer renditions of old hits ("No Gold Digger," "Ohio River Boat Song," "I See A Darkness") and new faves, especially when Will put down the guitar and sort of did his Matewan boy-preacher thing on "Merciless and Great" and "Go, Folks, Go". Will joked after "The Seedling" about how the song was about killing your creative offspring, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but people get very upset when anything is done to actual offspring -- for example like what's in the news lately in Pennsylvania; at least in Kentucky we keep it in the family, he said. For the encore, before launching into "Quail and Dumplings," they sang a few verses of the Frogs' classic, "These are the Finest Queen Boys (I've Ever Seen)." They could have played a few dozen more songs but otherwise I couldn't have hoped for a more memorable night. 

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