Listen to Will Oldham's Palace Music output from 1995, now streaming online for the first time.
Palace Music - West Palm Beach / Gulf Shores - Streaming Now
Palace Music - The Mountain Low - Streaming Now
Palace Music - The Mountain - Streaming Now
The “Palace Brothers” were invited to open the 2nd stage of the Lollapalooza tour for a couple of weeks in the summer of 1994. At the end of that run a recording session was booked at producer Kramer’s home studio in New Jersey. The band was Will Oldham, Aram Stith (guitar), Jason Stith (bass) and Jack Carneal (drums) and Ned Oldham (guitar). The Trux had done their “Back to School” 7” with Kramer, and it excited Will to think of going in and seeing how the notorious producer twiddled his knobs. The two songs were “West Palm Beach” and “Gulf Shores”. The band had not heard the songs prior to the session. Will had written the songs in the weeks leading up to the summer road stretch.
Will Oldham moved to Birmingham, Alabama to live near brother Ned and family. Birmingham was quiet and inexpensive and a few degrees warmer than Louisville in general. Will wanted to make a record in Birmingham and looked around (the phone book) for a recording studio. He came upon Bates Brothers Recording in nearby Hueytown and decided to do a test session with Ned and drummer Charlie Snell. They recorded “O How I Enjoy the Light” and “Marriage”. Eric Bates was the engineer. The Bates’ studio was well-stocked with keyboards: piano, mellotron, Hammond b-3. The sounds were tight and dry, reminding Oldham of tones obtained in 1970’s Serge Gainsbourg recordings. The photographs on the cover of the single were taken by Bryan Rich. Rich claimed that the back cover photograph was of the ruins of Mikhail Bulgakov’s house. This record was the first under the Palace Records imprint; Oldham had begun to be able to afford to pay for recording sessions, lessening the pressure that comes with spending other people’s money.
The test session at Bates Brothers had been a success. Will Oldham felt comfortable inviting Steve Albini to Alabama to make a full-length record (what would become VIVA LAST BLUES). The Bates’ ample supply of beautifully-maintained keyboards made inviting Liam Hayes to the session a no-brainer. Oldham spoke with Britt Walford about playing drums but eventually Walford formally balked. Instead, Will was encouraged by brother Paul Oldham to ask Jason Loewenstein to come drum. Loewenstein (of Sparkalepsy and Sebadoh) was living in Louisville at the time. Ned Oldham played the bass. Bryan Rich played “lead guitar”; questions still get asked about where said guitar was leading. Oldham has said that Stevie Wonder’s MUSIC OF MY MIND and Cat Stevens’ CATCH BULL AT FOUR were sonic influences, though such influence is hardly notable in the final product. Albini did some significant maintenance work on the 2” tape machines at the Bates studio in order to get things properly up and running. The record was titled VIVA LAST BLUES, in patial tribute to the movies of Russ Meyer. The “last” aspect had to do with Oldham feeling like he was coming to the end of a certain trajectory of discovery. The cover featured a drawing of a cheetah by Dianne Bellino. The LP came with a poster featuring a painting by Cynthia Kirkwood; the CD featured a different Kirkwood painting in the booklet’s center spread. A video was made by Aaron Woolf for the song “Old Jerusalem”; actress Chloe Sevigny starred in the video.
Around this time, folks (Pavement, King Kong) were going to Easley Studios in Memphis to make their records. Oldham didn’t like the inherent sounds of these records but figured he would take a first-hand look at Easley by recording two songs there. These two songs were “(End of) Traveling” and “Lost Blues”. Oldham asked brother Paul along with Jason Hayden (presently of One Beat Off) and Pete Townsend (not of the Who) to come to Memphis for the session. These were ¾ (at the time) of the great Louisville band Speed-to-Roam. Memphis’ Tiffany White sang “Lost Blues” with Will as a full duet partner, the first of many. Studio owner/engineer Doug Easley played the pedal steel guitar. It was decided that “The Mountain” from VIVA LAST BLUES would be released as a single with “(End of) Traveling” as a b-side. Two mixes were run of “(End of) Traveling”. The mix with a “dry” pedal steel was included on the 7” record. The cover of the “Mountain Low” single was a photo that Oldham had taken in Glen Lyon, Scotland, in the shadow of Ben Lawers. “Lost Blues” was later released on the Palace Music compilation LOST BLUES AND OTHER SONGS.
As with the 7” comp AN ARROW THROUGH THE BITCH the previous year (and the Royal Trux DOGS OF LOVE EP), it was decided to compile the “Mountain” 7” and the “West Palm Beach” 7” onto one four-song EP for release overseas on Domino. The mix of “(End of) Traveling” used on this EP had a “wet” pedal steel. The cover art was made by Nolen Otts. Otts intended the art to resemble classic Cuban cigar box art.
Palace Music - Viva Last Blues - Streaming Now
Palace Music - O How I Enjoy The Light - Streaming Now
Oldham’s Palace Records came into being in 1995. The twin intentions at the time for Palace Records were to formalize the new model of self-funding recording sessions and artwork commissions and to release great musics that Oldham was hearing that he figured might be a hard sell to the folks at Drag City. Three 7”s were released in 1995 on Palace Records that were non-Palace/Will Oldham endeavors. The first was by E/Or, a Louisville group made up of Steve Good (clarinet), Norman Minogue (drums), George Wethington (short wave radio), and Martin Williams (guitar). The two songs are epic abstracts, “Mike” and “Martin Found a Jealous Cop...”, each stretching the limits of the physical format to its outer boundaries.
The other two Palace Records non-Will-Oldham singles released in 1995 were both by the Broadcast Choir. From the ashes of the Pale Horse Riders came this experimental trio made up of Paul Oldham, Peter Townsend and Chris Layton. The records were “The Chapel Song”/“Down the Liver” and “Lights Out”/“Deflective War”. Both singles are harrowing, awesome complements to any playlist.