How many times does lightning have to strike for the world to catch fire? Eat Your Heart Out is yet another masterpiece from the seemingly infinite vault of your irrepressible humanity. I never quite imagine it is possible you will surpass yourself, as each offering seems, in the immanent moment of its ambient arrival, absolute, indeed is so. And yet your ever astonishing virtuosities are seasoned here, indeed generally since Bold Enough to Say, with a robust maturity in both theme and sound that is more satisfying than ever. There is a sadness, a rich and humble philosophical acceptance, a surrender and yet as well ever that defiant necessity at all costs, burnished now to absolute purity, to sing your song. It is as though through your own discernment of devotional endeavor in love and music, as a husband and father and musical poet, coupled with the crucible of external circumstance, the ongoing frustrations of endeavoring to be heard in a willfully deaf world, a world that punishes its ears and soul with placating insipidity rather then probing inquiry, with banality not beauty, you have become perfected, crystallized to an absolute harmony from the geometries of internal grace and external pressure like a diamond, to the point that every single fractal beam of sonic light that emanates from this spinning disc holds like a sounding sun all the light of creation. - Ethan Dunn
Like some of the artists who resonate within your singular voice, most especially David Bowie, I've always thought you to be a consummate creator of the pop song, which I mean as high praise. Writing within the strictures and according to the structures of a finite and recognizable form challenges the discipline of artistic muscle, like composing a sonnet; doing so in a medium so ostensibly accessible is especially challenging; to bring such personal, philosophical, and spiritual depth to the shape is a kind of mastery. I think I have told you that if I could have been anything in life I would have been, not a poet, but precisely what you are, a troubadour, able to sling a guitar over my back, go anywhere, and tell of all the world and life and love and poetry in a single song. It was glorious to experience the robust unleashing of your gifts and hard work in the more valent tapestry of Bold Enough To Say, and the spiritual infusion into your other human concerns was compelling. That was an apotheosis; I know it's difficult to live on in the aftermath of one's personal masterpiece, however it is received, and to continue to work. And yet it's delightful to have that mature authorial voice brought back now into your familiar medium of the pop song, and it is courageous, devotional, and visionary of you to continue forging this remarkable work. I love how you hew to the work no matter the external circumstance, through periods of perhaps both reward and frustration; isn't it wonderful that an impulse once connected to external concerns only becomes affirmed, strengthened, and purified as we move through life, if we are true, and those preoccupations mostly fall away? For myself, now, I crave only enough success to allow me to continue to work, just want to do the work. Calls spawned of our original and essential natures - for I know you are like me, and were born with a song in your head - once connected to ambition and wordily vanities, become increasingly rarefied and spiritual as their adamantine and immortal truth is revealed through our human lives, an essence of divine expression limned within our sinew and souls. I relish your journey, so like my own, and cherish these tuneful revelations that you send my way. I truly feel that through all the permutations of your long picaresque you only get better. While you suffer like so many the irritation of fandom for your early work, as in my love of Castles, the essential gift and this remarkable, epic devotion of its lifelong unveiling reveals but deeper and more profound beauties. Obviously some of the magical electricity of Liquid Bliss derived from the alchemy of you and Earl and Jason and John and Ariel. Great bands need not only great talent but this luck of chemistry, and you all had it. I was thinking about this chemistry while showing a video of Led Zeppelin playing, of all things, Stairway to Heaven to my son the other night. The combustion of those four men, each so talented in his own right, just ignites. But there was never any question for me that you are a solo talent, a signer-songwriter, that troubadour, and though I know the journey has been long and at times difficult, I am certain it is the right path. While I'll never forget hearing those first angelic strains played to me by Johanna McKeon twenty-plus years ago, I equally relish the fuller and fuller range of your expression, with its deep and visceral dimensions as well, and the breadth now of emotions and insights that accompany the formal virtuosity. Another pleasure of maturity and the long road is this inevitable burnishing of youthful conceit into a clarity, discernment, and sincerity of expression; your themes, so deeply heartfelt and salient, resonate with universal profundity. I especially enjoy the spiritual dimension, in both its struggle and affirmation, and of course the elements of romantic love and fatherhood. You possess the courage to let your life and your work entwine like two strands of DNA, and as such and because of the depth of your gift and the faithfulness of your application you are a great artist, one who is forging an epic body of work reflective of all the deepest themes of what it is to be alive. When I think about the story of your life as I know it, it seems almost as though it has unfolded perfectly for you to achieve this mastery, though I'm sure it has not always felt so, and of course that is primarily because of your genius in making of it just that. Even as at the close of this double album, in Dead Plastic Bird, you make your peace about making your music for the deepest reasons and for your most intimate beloveds, through its inherent genius and also through that very sort of religious focus and unapologetic service it attains a universal power. - Ethan Dunn
The essential conceit of Bold Enough to Say, parsing the Lord's Prayer to its constituent parts and through the lyrical exploration of those fragments questioning, stretching, affirming, and transforming the spiritual truths it represents is itself genius; the gifts of musical, lyric, and expressive talent you bring to bear upon the endeavor are, truly, real genius, the real genius of realized purpose that itself becomes the expression of the divine; these gifts bring your original idea wholly to a life that is radically affecting. Experiencing this work is like loving a person, or like loving godhead: you are challenged, confounded, affirmed, comforted, compelled, embraced, called to account, and finally perfected through that love. You have created a masterpiece of our modern era that not only brings spirituality to the contemporary moment in the language of our time, but compels the spiritualist to the necessity of that call. My own compulsion is that the holy woman or man, which we are all each, must become himself the living fuse of the spirit to which he professes, that he is himself not merely a celebrant but the living incarnation, the sacred keep, of that very faith, that he both recreates it and carries it with him as he goes, with all attendant responsibilities of compassion and grace; to my subjective eye you have expressed a similar notion with tremendous beauty and power in Bold Enough to Say.
With Bold Enough to Say, Billy, you have stunningly achieved this apotheosis. All that astonishing original talent is here, intact after all these years of its harrowing and joyful journey of self-realization: the angelic voice, the literate lyrics, the rock 'n' roll edge. The mojo of your first majesty is as heavy and light and wonderful as ever. Indeed those original capacities have seasoned along with your sense. But there is more here now, a distilling alchemy, the piercing necessity and concomitant perfection of the robust voice of realized purpose. All your considerable capacity is focused with transformative intention on your expressive imperative with an integrated mastery that becomes real genius. - Ethan Dunn