On their superb collaboration Superwolf
, Matt Sweeney and Will Oldham (a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy) play ballads with the intimacy of bunkmates, conjuring a parched farm where panther-girls and man-donkeys toil and spank one another. The sweet, absurd imagery would sound cloying in most hands, but not here, thanks to Oldham's unself-conscious delivery and Sweeney's fragile harmonies and swelling guitar, which props up the melodies like a fence post. The spare but kind tone suggests a melding of English folk with the grit of American country, and while the album is never far from desolation -- as on the grueling "Blood Embrace" -- its best moments are the most graceful, like "Beast for Thee," which is ready to pat your neck as you die in its arms.