Album Reviews

Bill Callahan | Dream River | Album Review


“The only words I said today are ‘Beer’ and ‘Thank you'” are the lyrics that capture the imagination in the first song of Bill Callahan’s 15th studio album ‘Dream River‘. He’s created a wonderful character for himself, and I’ve no idea how close to the real Bill it is. He’s a loner and a drinker, a gambler and a troubled soul according to his lyrics anyway. He must be doing something right, as very few artist get to record 15 albums. I’ve no great love for anything before the 1997 ‘Red Apple Falls’ (I’m sure the Smog/ Bill purists will be up in arms about that comment) but the body of work he’s created since then would compare with any of the best folk singers around today.

“I painted names on boats for a summer

For luck, you keep the same first letter

You don’t want, you don’t want, you don’t want bad luck at sea

Rich Man’s Folly and Poor Man’s Dream” – Summer Painter

The thing that stands out on this album is the arrangement and how stripped down it is. There is electric guitar on the album, but it is distant in the background. There’s nothing raucous or wild on this album, just a collection of songs that drift and waft along. There are a few surprises in the instrumentation with songs like Spring and Javelin Unlanding featuring a strong flute sound.

It’s not a classic album from him, and if you’re new to his work, there are better places to start (Try Knock, Knock (2000)) but for fans of Mr. Callahan, it’s a joy to get another release from the man, and another attempt to get inside his head. I’d expect it to feature in my top albums of the year.

“The road is dangerous and pretty and white

Tires spinning on snow

World spinning heavy and slow

And I’m headed home” – Winter Road

“I feel like there’s already a written narrative going on everywhere. All the different situations and realities you’re in, like words floating by. It’s something that I didn’t start thinking about until recently, but you can hitch that ride, that narrative that’s already been created. You just have to read it and write it down.” -Bill Callahan – Spin Magazine.

Bill Callahan – Dream River is released Drag City. Bill plays the Olympia Theatre on the 2nd of February 2014.

1. “The Sing” 4:32

2. “Javelin Unlanding” 3:48

3. “Small Plane” 3:57

4. “Spring” 5:10

5. “Ride My Arrow” 5:03

6. “Summer Painter” 6:30

7. “Seagull” 5:39

8. “Winter Road” 5:30

Total length: 40:09

Categories: Album Reviews, Best Albums

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