BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY
DRAG CITY/PALACE RECORDS
“AGNES, QUEEN OF SORROW”
May 17, 2004
Hi, everybody! It’s Andy Gesner and the staff here at Hip Video Promo with our first (but hopefully not last) video promotion for Drag City, a Chicago based indie label completely worthy of your attention. We’re proud to be bringing you the latest video from one of the most enigmatic and transcendent figures in independent music: Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Although the reticent performer rarely grants interviews, this moving clip for “Agnes, Queen Of Sorrow” speaks volumes about his warmth, his hard-won humor, his affable quirks, and his humanity.
Long associated with lo-fi production and fragile compositions of strange luster and great emotional depth, Bonnie “Prince” Billy – also known as Palace Music auteur Will Oldham – has followed the gorgeous, elliptical Master And Everyone with a winning departure from his usual recording approach. Bonnie “Prince” Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music features exquisitely-performed reinterpretations of some of the best-loved Palace songs. Where many of the originals were clenched,and darkly fascinating, the redux versions are rendered as full-blown, wide-open country & western music: replete with clear-as-a-bell pedal steel, aching mandolin, acoustic guitar, Appalachian strings, plaintive saxophone, and Oldham’s scratchy, moving vocals. To assist him in this ambitious project, Oldham has enlisted some of the best-known session players in Nashville – including Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Eddie Bayers, and accomplished fiddler Stuart Duncan. The result is revelatory, breathtaking – a winding, scenic trip through a gem-studded songbook, led through hills and hollers by Music City’s finest guides.
The heartbreaking “Agnes, Queen Of Sorrow” has always been one of Oldham’s best-loved songs. The narrative elements are simple, but profound: patience, longing, a dead child, a relationship suffused in sadness. The Greatest Palace Music version recasts the song as a duet. As the musicians construct a delicate framework of steel guitar, yearning strings, and brushed drums, Oldham lifts his weary, invariably expressive voice to join his partner’s in plainspoken communion.
Drawn and directed by Scottish artist David Shrigley, the “Agnes, Queen Of Sorrow” clip perfectly captures the humor, love, and redemption within Oldham’s story of heartbreak and loss. In striking, hand-scribbled black-and-white animation, figures representing a couple move slowly through mourning to find their way back to each other. Shrigley’s stark white landscapes are dotted with images of mortality: a grandfather clock, a falling leaf, a gravestone, an hourglass. The male figure, bare from the waist up, hides behind tables, doors, a small aquarium; his female counterpart, dressed in a jet-black shroud, impassively watches a spider, a sundial, ants in the jam.
Shrigley consistently draws these elements out of proportion to the humans encountering them. A huge watch, sitting on a blank table, confronts the characters with its enormity – and, by extension, with the enormity of time. The characters’ arms hang uselessly by their sides, pinned there by gravity and the immensity of experience. Yet Shrigley maintains a tone of great warmth throughout: the two figures, despite their apparent pain, care for each other, and we can’t help but sympathize as they try to reconnect. They ride horses together, sit at a picnic, hold hands, begin to smile again. By the end of the clip, they’re animated enough to play a gentle game of ping-pong. As the sound of the ball on the paddle rises clearly above the outro, our emotional investment in these characters becomes nearly palpable.
It’s a brilliant clip, and one we’re proud to share. If it sounds unique; well, it is. But a project as unusual as Bonnie “Prince” Billy could not have been matched with anything less. We’re sure you’ll agree. You can imagine how truly fortunate we feel here at HIP Video Promo to be able to send you this beautiful and powerful clip. Many thanks to Melissa Severin at Drag City for allowing us to be a part of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s world. If you need more info or would like to see Bonnie “Prince” Billy while he’s on tour, call me at 732-613-1779, or email info@HIPVideoPromo.com.