The fruits of Cheyenne Mize’s and Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s collaborative efforts are simple, antiquated pleasures. The purpose and premise of the Among the Gold EP is nothing more than Cheyenne Mize wanting to record a few of her favorite parlour songs. Mize asked Bonnie “Prince” Billy to record it for her, and through the natural course of things, Billy (let’s just call him Will Oldham from here on out) ended up as her duet partner on every single song.
Admittedly, that description doesn’t portend a terribly interesting listen, but there is a reverence and consistent, undeniable beauty permeating every song. Mize and Oldham don’t knock themselves out trying to rearrange these songs into something more modern, but Mize’s lovely lilt and Oldham’s handsome tenor go a long way to justifying this EP. The entire affair casually drifts by on the strength of the pair’s relaxed chemistry. Mize and Oldham re-imagine the oft-covered “Beautiful Dreamer” as a round, with Mize trailing Oldham by a beat, and their vocal interplay elevates this version above its counterparts by a considerable degree. “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” is beautifully rendered, not so much suggesting the familiarity of a longtime couple, but rather the barely contained enthusiasm involved in a burgeoning romance. Like the rest of the EP, it’s graceful, understated, and genuinely affecting.
Naturally, there will be those who criticize Among the Gold for being somewhat pointless, and those people won’t be wrong. There’s little here that burns with purpose, but that’s the complaint every time a record of covers appears. What sets one cover record apart from another is the earnestness and professionalism of those involved, and Among the Gold lacks for neither. Mize handles all of the instrumentation here, scant as it is (guitar, auto-harp, little else), and every acoustic pluck feels carefully considered and well-placed. Mize’s intentions here seem to be motivated by little more than admiration for these songs. Oldham is a friend throwing his skill and reputation into the mix in order to assist her.
Among the Gold is 21 minutes of exquisitely realized appreciation for songs that have outlasted their makers. It may not be the most substantial work of anyone involved, but Mize and Oldham perform past their modest ambitions.