Domino - 2001 - 44mins

In recent years, Will Oldham has released material under several singular and plural guises, changing the name or line-up to suit each musical project. From the group camaraderie of Palace to more melodic, solitude of "I See A Darkness", Oldham's journey was just as solitary under the moniker of Palace as Bonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham. However, he returns with "Ease Down the Road" and by the sound of it, he's not alone: each step he takes resounds with the presence of someone else.

"May it Always Be", is a frank, heartfelt ode, steeped in fate, which drifts into "Careless Love", a plaintive apology that hangs in the air like a campfire lament. So, the indicators point to Mr Oldham being in love, a fact that doesn’t excuse the album's low point "Just to see my Holly home", a jangly, jaunty effort with a chorus that begins to jar after a couple of listens. However BPB quickly redeems himself as this twee offering is followed by the best track on the album "Break of Day", an upbeat piece written against the backdrop of an impending dawn. Soft pianos and guitar play second fiddle to Oldham’s delicate vocal, on "After I made love to you", where his voice is only overshadowed by Catherine Irwin’s honeyed harmonies.

Oldham's staple array of themes - love, loss, death and friendship – recur but with more poignancy than before. The album brims with nascent hope, but there are tinges of darkness in "Sheep" and "Grand dark feeling of Emptiness". However, whether it's love found, or darkness lost, Oldham hasn't lost his sense of humor, as he inverts some of the tenderest moments, including the casual aside about the mutual fondness he and his lady have for going down on each other.

This is Oldham's finest work to date and definitely an early contender for one of 2001's best endeavours. Let's hope he sticks with this line-up for a while.

Sinead Gleeson

Tracklisting: May it always be - Careless love - King at night - Just to see my Holly home - At the break of day - After I made love to you - Ease down the road - Lion lair - Mrs William - Sheep - Grand dark feeling of emptiness – Rich wife full of happiness