The Best Dylan Covers: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham – Brownsville Girl


The Best Dylan Covers: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham – Brownsville Girl

Brownsville Girl” is a song from Bob Dylan’s 1986 album, Knocked Out Loaded, recorded in May of that year. It is notable for its length, over 11 minutes, and for being co-written by playwright Sam Shepard. The song is an overdubbed version of a December 1984 outtake from the Empire Burlesque sessions entitled “New Danville Girl”.

bob dylan knocked out

While as an album Knocked Out Loaded was poorly received upon release, “Brownsville Girl” is considered one of Dylan’s best pieces by some critics. Music critic Robert Christgau praised “Brownsville Girl” as “one of the greatest and most ridiculous of Dylan’s great ridiculous epics. Doesn’t matter who came up with such lines as ‘She said even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt’ and ‘I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran’ — they’re classic Dylan.”

 Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham has played the song live, and it is a tremendous achievement. The size of the song, the amount of lyrics, man, it has to be tough to learn. Bob Dylan played it live one time, only one time, I mean, it’s a tough song to do. Not many artists have tried to do their version, Mr. Oldham has and he did a good job.

Brownsville Girl (Bob Dylan) covered by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy:

“Well, there was this movie I seen one time,
about a man riding ‘cross the desert
and it starred Gregory Peck.”

Other entries in the series:
The Best Dylan covers: Stevie Wonder – Blowin’ in the wind
The Best Dylan Covers: George Harrison – If Not For You
The Best Dylan Covers: Emmylou Harris – Every Grain of Sand
The Best Dylan Covers: Them – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
The Best Dylan Covers: Joan Baez – Farewell Angelina
The Best Dylan Covers: Roger McGuinn – Up To Me
The Best Dylan Covers: Jeff Beck Group – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
The Best Dylan Covers: Susan Tedeschi – Lord Protect My Child
The Best Dylan Covers: Lucinda Williams – Tryin’ To Get To Heaven
The Best Dylan Covers: Jerry Garcia Band – Simple Twist of Faith
The Best Dylan Covers: Bruce Springsteen – All Along The WatchTower
The Best Dylan Covers: Patti Smith – Changing Of The Guards
The Best Dylan Covers: Johnny Rivers – Positively 4th Street
The Best Dylan Covers: Antony and The Johnsons – Knocking On Heaven’s Door
The Best Dylan Covers: Dave Alvin – Highway 61 Revisited
The Best Dylan Covers: 16 Horsepower – Nobody ‘Cept You
The Best Dylan Covers: Alicia Keys – Pressing On
The Best Dylan Covers: Cowboy Junkies – If You Gotta Go, Go Now
The Best Dylan Covers: Nina Simone – The Ballad of Hollis Brown
The Best Dylan Covers: Ramones – My Back Pages
The Best Dylan Covers: The Long Ryders – Masters of War
The Best Dylan Covers: Cat Power – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again
The Best Dylan Covers: The Flying Burrito Bros – To Ramona
The Best Dylan Covers: Chrissie Hynde – I Shall Be Released
The Best Dylan Covers: Norah Jones – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
The Best Dylan Covers: Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash – It Ain’t Me Babe
The Best Dylan Covers: Buddy Miller – With God On Our Side

– Hallgeir

4 thoughts on “The Best Dylan Covers: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham – Brownsville Girl”

  1. This is my all-time favorite Dylan cover. When i discovered it, I couldn’t stop listening. Bonnie Prince Billy is in my top 3 favorite artists ever, with Dylan and Tom Waits. BPB also put on the best live show I’ve ever seen – and as a musician who lives in Athens GA I’ve been to very nearly 1000 shows in my life. The next several spots on my favorite shows list are occupied by Dylan. Anywho, that’s just to say that this cover is a perfect convergence for my tastes.

    and I agree, start with Ease Down the Road and I See a Darkness, if you’re new to Will Oldham.

  2. You’re very welcome,but the thanks really is all mine☺ you guessed right about me hearing that song,i can’t believe i’ve been listening to this guy for 15 years and didn’t even know it,what an amazing song it is☺☺ i am about to order the cd, thanks for the recommendations,
    Be well☺

  3. Hi Hallgeir,
    This is so incredibly special!! tears of joy for most of it☺☺a lot of bob fans think i’m insane because i include brownsville girl in my top 5 bob songs!it’s one of the most emotional songs i’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to,i close my eyes and i’m living this song! it has some of my all time favourite lines, “if there’s an original thought out there I could use it right now”☺☺i thought i was gonna be sad that they had no backing singers,then came the chorus and these guys even recreated some of the queens of rhythm’s magic lines☺☺☺i’d never heard anything from Bonnie Prince Billy before,that’s all about to change☺huge thank you for posting!!

    1. Thanks for the nice feedback, yes, he’s a special artist. I am guessing that you have heard one song of his before, I see a darkness on Johnny Cash’s American III: Solitary man. Will Oldham/Bonnie “Prince” Billy joins Cash singing backing vocals on his own composition.

      If I should start listening to Bonnie Prince Billy, I would start with the albums, I See A Darkness and Ease down the road. Both wonderful albums and very very different.

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