The short-and-sweet EP Now Here’s My Plan finds Will Oldham back in self-covering mode, albeit with rather different results than on 2004’s Bonnie “Prince” Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music. Whereas that album spruced up Oldham’s rickety Palace material with mixed results, Plan seems to have no particular aim or raison d’être, and this is probably a good thing. Instead, Oldham tackles six of the stronger tracks from his back catalog with Emmett Kelly and The Cairo Gang, who have been serving as his backing band for some time now.
Neither overly polished (as was Greatest Palace Music in many instances) nor ramshackle, Plan seems primarily to serve as a showcase for the band, both as performers and arrangers. The tone here is consistently light and energetic, even on the most unlikely material (the dour “I See a Darkness”). Oldham’s vocals follow suit; rarely has he sounded less awkward and more at ease. While the new arrangements keep some of Oldham’s more awkward lyrics intact (particularly “Beast for Thee,” originally from his Superwolf collaboration with Matt Sweeney), they find him at his most accessible and cleaned-up. Better still, the songs in most cases pack an emotional punch that rivals their original performances: “I Don’t Belong to Anyone” strikes the right balance between nonchalance and melancholy that was perhaps a bit buried under the heavy arrangement on Beware; “After I Made Love to You” sounds sweeter and less ponderous; even “I See A Darkness” manages to add a sense of mature distance to its still-intact pathos.
While there may be no particular rationale for re-recording these six songs, Now Here’s My Plan hardly comes across as filler or another instance of Oldham’s over-productivity. At a brief and breezy 26 minutes, it feels more complete and balanced than many of his full lengths, free of his usual inconsistency and meandering, and with nary a wasted note.