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Crossover duo re-imagines rarities by the Everly Brothers

Paul Flahive

The last thing Will Oldham wants to do right after recording an album is talk about the album. According to Oldham, who goes by the moniker Bonnie "Prince" Billie when he sings, you really don't have much perspective on the record. You're tired and the things that are interesting to him are the things he was doing when he was recording those songs.

"I look back on it and I think, 'Oh, that was a long day,' or 'That was a long day.' No one wants to hear an interview where you talk about it being a long day or what machine broke," said Oldham via phone.

He would prefer a year or two before he talks about the process and can reflect on the album's meaning and how he feels about it, how it fits into the rest. It is a battle he said he has yet to win with his recording label, but he does try to get out of album release promotion. He isn't thinking about the new aspect of his albums. He built these to last.

So a short five months after the release of his latest collaboration with Dawn McCarthy, "What The Brothers Sang," he is making an exception.

The album, a folksy and country series of duets with singer, songwriter Dawn McCarthy is part re-imagining and part tribute album to the work of the Everly Brothers, a country-influenced rock and roll outfit that rose to prominence in the late '50s. The Everlys were masters of harmonizing and songs for two, a fact cemented in the tracks laid out on the album. From "Omaha" to "What Am I Living For" Oldham and McCarthy's strong and complementary voices shine on the album.

Oldham began listening to the Everly Brothers 25 years ago, so when McCarthy had the idea to do an album on the Everlys work he started sending her song after song of the less known, the haunting, the psychedelic and she gratefully dug in. The two finally settled on 13 tracks that, rather than define the Everly oeuvre, extend it to include something more.

"There are all these songs that were very much outside the public perception of what the Everly Brothers do," Oldham said.

He takes his work seriously, but that doesn't mean it is always serious. He has 16 studio albums worth of sometimes Americana, sometimes roots, sometimes folk sometimes indie rock and at times weird music. We won't go into the alternative music video for Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing" he did with Zach Galifinackis other than to say he isn't above making a joke at his own expense.

He's just as earnest about his live performances.

"You're only in this room with these musicians and this audience in this city at this specific time," said Oldham.

Thinking like this and the way he prepares let him remember most of his shows, the pieces played, the audiences and the feeling of each place. He isn't bragging so much as he is emphasizing how serious he takes his performances.

In the interview he asked me questions about the venue. Have I been there? What's it like? What do I think the crowd will be like? He's thinking up front about how these songs will sound in that place.

"People spend money on music -- or they used to," he said "That's a commitment. You did something to get that money. It's valuable and you're exchanging it for this musical experience."

He wants it to matter ... or at least be worth the money.


By PAUL FLAHIVE
Daily News correspondent