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Old Calf: Borrow A Horse

B+

Old Calf

Album: Borrow A Horse
Label: No Quarter

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While Will Oldham has spent two decades cultivating a certain cryptic obscurity as the leader of Palace and under the name Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, his brother and former sideman, Ned Oldham, became obscure the old-fashioned way: by keeping a low profile while crafting steady, understated folk-rock. Ned’s long-running band The Anomoanon has given way to a new outfit called Old Calf, but if its debut album, Borrow A Horse, is any indication, he hasn’t changed his stripes. He has brightened and deepened them, though: From the opening twang of “I Saw A Peacock With A Fiery Tale” to the closing drift of “What Did I Dream,” Borrow A Horse finds Ned digging even more passionately into the roots of Appalachia and Albion. And although his voice vaguely, eerily echoes his better-known sibling’s, Ned asserts himself as far more of a traditionalist: “There Are Men In The Village Of Erith” evokes Liege & Lief-era Fairport Convention with its teeming, fiddle-sweetened antiquarianism, and the Band-like “A Gift, A Ghost/Monday Alone” sounds like it’s sprouting out of the soil rather than speakers. Old Calf may not work hard—or at all—trying to construct some sort of mystique, but it doesn’t need to; its rich, earthy music does the job all by itself.