Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – “The Wild Kindness” (Silver Jews Cover) (Feat. Cassie Berman)
We are now months into the era where Bill Callahan and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy get together with friends and release their covers of old songs, and the whole project shows no signs of abating. In the past few months, Callahan and Oldham — recording, as usual, as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy — have taken on Michael Burton’s cowboy song “Night Rider’s Lament” and Leonard Cohen’s posthumous Penthouse Letters story “The Night Of Santiago,” as well as Oldham’s own “Arise, Therefore,” a song from back when he was still using the name Palace. But today, Oldham and Callahan have gone for something that might hit you right in the gut. They have covered a David Berman song, and they’ve done it with Cassie Berman.
David Berman, Callahan and Oldham’s old friend and Drag City bandmate, died by suicide in 2019. In their latest release, Callahan and Oldham have covered “The Wild Kindness,” one of the songs that Berman’s band Silver Jews included on their 1998 classic American Water. (Berman’s old bandmate Stephen Malkmus also covered “The Wild Kindness” shortly after Berman’s death.) For this cover, Callahan and Oldham have brought in Cassie Berman, David’s widow. Cassie was also a member of Silver Jews, though she didn’t play on American Water.
In their covers, Callahan and Oldham have usually made big changes to the songs that they’ve played, and they’ve traded off lead vocals. But for “The Wild Kindness,” they’ve given the song a straight, faithful reading. All three of them — Callahan, Oldham, and Cassie Berman — sing it together. Listen to the cover and the Silver Jews original below.
“The Wild Kindness,” like all the other Callahan/Oldham covers, is out now on Drag City.