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Alternative Folk

This incarnation of Palace, one of its more impressive, sees front man Will Oldham turning out some of the strongest bleak country rock in his career, and taking the music in a few intriguing and even upbeat directions. With a great supporting cast that includes, among others, Sebadoh's Jason Loewenstein on drums, and Oldham's brother Ned on bass, the group busts out laid back twangy tunes that can really rock when the opportunity comes up. Most notably, tracks like ""Work Hard/Play Hard"" and the opening ""More Brother Rides" are brimming with energy that may not overwhelm, but certainly provides a hefty backbone. Alternately, slower brooding tracks like the longing ""New Partner" see the band proving their chops in a more refined setting. Oldham's cracking backcountry voice may be a bit of an acquired taste, but it's worth the time, as his inflections are capable of powerful feelings and certain honesty. The Palace team has put out many a record, but as far as accessible and slightly upbeat musical ruminations go, Viva Last Blues certainly sees the players near the top of their game. Things are a little thicker and dirtier than on the more laid back acoustic records this prolific artist has put out, but the rock approach adds worlds to the delivery and creates a powerful palette for the equally important lyrics. Oldham is a truly underrated American talent, and this is among his best work, so take the time to find it. ~ Peter J. D'Angelo, All Music Guide

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