In 1967, when he was still known as Cat Stevens, the folk singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam released his sophomore LP New Masters. On that LP, which he reissued earlier this year, Islam included a truly bleak and desolate protest song called “Blackness Of The Night”: “For this bad, bad world I’m beginning to doubt/ I’m alone and there is no one by my side.” Today, a few of the great iconoclasts of the underground have gotten together to cover the song.
Bill Callahan and Will Oldham have been working together and releasing music on the Drag City label for many, many years. Today, Callahan and Oldham — working, as usual, under his Bonnie “Prince” Billy pseudonym — have gotten together to record a soft and harmony-heavy version of “Blackness Of The Night.” The Chicago musician and fellow Drag City artist AZITA has helped out on it.
Callahan and Oldham have both released a lot of music lately. Callahan just came out with his new album Gold Record a month ago. Oldham released the Bonnie “Prince” Billy LP I Made A Place late last year. AZITA’s most recent release is the single “Shooting Birds Out Of The Sky,” which came out earlier this year. On “Blackness Of The Night,” the three of them take a resonant old song and tap into the tragedy of it. Listen to their version and the Yusuf Islam original below.
The “Blackness Of The Night” cover is out now on Drag City.