Palace Music: Will Oldham (vocals, guitar); Bryan Rich (guitar); Liam Hayes (piano, organ); Ned Oldham (bass, slide guitar, background vocals); Jason Loewenstein (drums, background vocals).
Perhaps inspired by producer Steve Albini, Will Oldham turned up the volume on VIVA LAST BLUES, the hardest-rocking album in the Palace canon. Picking up on the thread of the AN ARROW THROUGH THE BITCH EP, Oldham dives headlong into the Neil Young/Crazy Horse sound that's always been a stylistic guidepost to the work of the band.
Surging electric guitar riffs and powerful drums mark the sound of "Work Hard/Play Hard," "Cat's Blues" and others. The downcast folk-poet sound of yore isn't entirely absent though, as evidenced by the touching, romantic ballad "We All, Us Three, Will Ride" and the poignant, countryish "New Partner." A well-balanced album, and one of the finest in the Palace catalog.
Spin (12/95, p.123) - 8 - Very Good - "...Oldham's tunes are lovely and thorny, a bible-belt punk response to PJ Harvey's brimstone tangos....purer and wilder than any previous Palace outing....Palace leaves lo-fi country the way Elizabeth Taylor leaves husbands--proving one way to do something new is to hunker down and become weirdly, deeply more of what you already are."
Q (9/95, p.118) - 3 Stars - Good - "...Oldham is sometimes artfully artless, there's coherence to this reworking of the restless spirit of country blues..."
Melody Maker (12/23-30/95, pp.66-67) - Ranked #30 on Melody Maker's list of 1995's `Albums Of The Year.'
Melody Maker (8/12/95, p.34) - Recommended - "...the purest country I've heard since the Cowboy Junkies, but as spare as that band were ornate....Albini's production is pivotal...lending their unassuming strummings a powerful presence without requiring them to resort to the risible, c**try-rock, fiddly f***ery of `Comes A Time'..."
NME (Magazine) (12/23-30/95, pp.22-23) - Ranked #50 in NME's `Top 50 Albums Of The Year' for 1995.
NME (Magazine) (8/19/95, p.49) - 8 (out of 10) - "...[Will Oldham] has expanded his sound--previously shaky, fragmented meta-country--to a richer mix of strafed and plucked guitars, jagged pianos and humming synths....his trademark croaking voice has strengthened....surreal, allusive and crookedly beautiful..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.100) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "1995's magnificent VIVA LAST BLUES is simply recommended to all. Its medium for the most part a warm and even Stonesy folk-rock..."