Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Matt Sweeney

Superwolf

On this superb collaboration, Matt Sweeney and Will Oldham play ballads with the intimacy of bunkmates, conjuring a parched farm where panther-girls and man-donkeys toil, love, and spank one another. The sweet, absurd imagery would sound cloying in most hands, but Oldham's unselfconscious delivery makes his scenes as plain as distressed leather; and Sweeney (of Chavez and Zwan) is the perfect co-worker, adding fragile harmonies and a guitar that props up the melodies like a fence post. The spare but kind tone suggests a melding of English folk with the grit of American country, and while the album is never far from desolation -- as on the grueling "Blood Embrace" -- its best moments are the most graceful, like "Beast for Thee," which is ready to pat your neck as you die in its arms.

 
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