Published Dec 03, 2015Ten years since its release, the opening line of Okkervil River's seminal Black Sheep Boy, "Here I am back home again," means so much more.
Memory provides the focus of much of Okkervil River's music, including 2013's The Silver Gymnasium, so it makes sense that they would revisit their strongest offering in the added context of their new material. The re-release is accompanied by not one but two appendices, each focusing on different musical memories.
The first appendix includes cut tracks and alternative takes, giving an interesting inside look into what made it to the final album. Highlights include a longer, heavier "Black Sheep Boy #4" as well as a few odd musical experiments: "A Garden" and the spooky "A Forest," with its radio haze and murmuring.
The second appendix comprises a number of covers, mostly of the classic sad country tune variety. The tunes are stripped back, production-wise, which gives the re-release some of the most emotionally stark moments. "Knoxville Girl" works well for Will Sheff's voice, sad and petulant at the same time, while a rare Louvin Brothers cover, of the weirdo classic "Satan is Real," features excellent harmonies and haunting, reverb-y guitars.
Though it might seem daunting at first, the three-LP Black Sheep Boy works well as a winding but pleasurable listen. It's not essential, necessary, but it's a fine way for fans to gain further insight into a beloved classic. (Jagjaguwar)