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BILL CALLAHAN

Bill Callahan

Resuscitate!

    The date was March 6th, 2023. Bill Callahan strode onto the stage at Chicago’s Thalia Hall, flanked by Matt Kinsey on guitar, Dustin Laurenzi on alto sax and Jim White on the kit. They all were feeling good, and it seemed like the crowd was also. But that wasn’t all. They had some special surprises planned... take it away, Bill....

    “This is a live album that was taken from the tour for 'YTI⅃AƎЯ'. Songs tend to mutate after they’ve been recorded. These songs were mutating faster than usual. Like whatever happened to Bruce Banner in the lab - I knew these songs were about to get superpowers. As far as I was concerned, this change needed to be documented.

    The best thing about documenting something is that it gives the creator permission to move on should they wish to move on. I usually prefer to move on.

    These songs were recorded in Chicago, America’s heart. And at one of the best clubs in the country - I try to only work with venues that are not entangled with LiveNation/Ticketmaster. Thalia Hall, baby. Stay free.

    The date was mid-point in the tour, so I knew we’d be as hot as we were
    going to get. Not too green, not too brown.

    There was the thought, 'let’s take this op to make it something special'.
    So we took advantage of Chicago’s easily accessible players - we got
    Nick Mazzarella to add alto sax to one song, and from the opening band, Pascal Kerong’A to sing on a song, and Nathaniel Ballinger on piano on one song - and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to invite Joshua Abrams and Lisa Alvarado to play on 'Natural Information'.

    The hardest part of making the record was cutting songs out - it
    could have been a triple album. But I don’t know, maybe the show should have been this short?”

    - Bill Callahan

    TRACK LISTING

    1. First Bird
    2. Coyotes
    3. Keep Some Steady
    4. Friends Around
    5. Partition
    6. Drover
    7. Pigeons
    8. Everyway
    9. Naked Souls
    10. Natural
    11. Information
    12. Planets

    Bill Callahan

    YTI⅃AƎЯ

      “And we’re coming out of dreams / And we’re coming back to dreams” is the first thing you hear Bill say as you remake your acquaintance on YTI⅃AƎЯ. Right out the gate, he’s standing in two places at once: meeting up with old friends behind the scenes and encountering them on the record, finding himself coming round the bend and then again as someone else on down the line. Like the character actor he played on Gold Record, writing stories about other people, telling jokes about everyone, and in singing them, becoming the songs.

      From the beautiful to the jarring, intrepid explorer Callahan charts a passage through all kinds of territory, pitting dreams of dreams against dreams of reality. When he makes it back to us, his old friends 'n acquaintances, we are reminded how much of a world it can be out there - and in here as well, where we live everyday.

      TRACK LISTING

      First Bird
      Everyway
      Bowevil
      Partition
      Lily
      Naked Souls
      Coyotes
      Drainface
      Natural Information
      The Horse
      Planets
      Last One At The Party

      Bill Callahan And Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

      Blind Date Party

        The Blind Date Party hosted by Bill Callahan and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and featuring AZITA, Matt Sweeney, Alasdair Roberts, Matt Kinsey, Sean O’Hagan, Bill MacKay, George Xylouris, Dead Rider, David Pajo, Mick Turner, Meg Baird, Ty Segall, Emmett Kelly, Cory Hanson, Six Organs of Admittance, David Grubbs, Cassie Berman, Cooper Crain and Sir Richard Bishop happened online in the fall and winter of ’20–’21 — but the party planning dated back to the spring of 2020. Stuck at home, with no gigs in the foreseeable future, Bill, Bonnie and Drag City needed an outreach program to keep themselves busy, not to mention sane. In the absence of any company or anything on the calendar, playing songs they loved was an idea; playing with people they loved, the desire. And making it fun — so pairing someone with someone else having no say in the matter, the essence of the blind date, was the plan. Favorite songs were chose; players from around the Drag City galaxy were messaged. Pretty soon, songs were flying back and forth — music in the air!

        And thus, they were entertained throughout the summer of 2020, when so much else in the world seemed so completely wrong. By the fall, the songs started to appear online: Bill and Bonnie singing a song by someone they loved and admired; each song cut by another another artist they loved and admired, then sent to Bill and Bonny to provide the finishing touches. The spotlight pointed in every direction each week: toward the singers and writers who’d originally played the songs (Yusuf Islam, Hank Williams Jr., Dave Rich, The Other

        Years, Billie Eilish, Steely Dan, Lou Reed, Bill Callahan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Wyatt, Lowell George, Johnnie Frierson, Air Supply, Will Oldham, Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Iggy Pop and John Prine), toward their featured collaborators, the artists whose artwork adorned each digital single and videos made by still more collaborators. And you, the listener.

        Like the best parties, it turned out to be everything and more than they’d even hoped for. So many more people were involved in the process that we can get on the page here. Suffice to say, making records over the years has required a broad sense of community and an always-surprising mix of independence and unity, inspiration and utility. Some of our best memories are those where as many of our folks as as possible were together in one place at one time. In those moments, it was just a great thing just to be there. And with others looking in . . . this was a joy one could only be infinitely lucky to feel and to take for granted, as well.

        The Blind Date Party was one of these, maybe the most improbable one yet. It’s for everyone who’s here and it’s in the name of everyone who’s gone but will never go and will always live with us here. This album will too.

        And thus, we are entertained.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Darryl says: Combining the best elements of each others talents 'Blind Date Party' finds Bill and Will in fabulous form. Mellow, dark, country-folk laments to snuggle up to during the cold winter months.

        TRACK LISTING

        A
        The Blackness Of The Night (feat. Azita)
        OD'd In Denver (feat. Matt Sweeney)
        I've Made Up My Mind (feat. Alasdair Roberts)
        Red-Tailed Hawk (feat. Matt Kinsey)
        Wish You Were Gay (feat. Sean O'Hagan)
        Our Anniversary (feat. Dead Rider)
        B
        Rooftop Garden (feat. George Xylouris)
        Deacon Blues (feat. Bill MacKay)
        I Love You (feat. David Pajo)
        C
        Sea Song (feat. Mick Turner)
        I've Been The One (feat. Meg Baird)
        Miracles (feat. Ty Segall)
        I Want To Go To The Beach (feat. Cooper Crain)
        D
        Night Rider's Lament (feat. Cory Hanson)
        Arise, Therefore (feat. Six Organs Of Admittance)
        The Night Of Santiago (feat. David Grubbs)
        The Wild Kindness (feat. Cassie Berman)
        Lost In Love (feat. Emmett Kelly)
        She Is My Everything (feat. Sir Richard Bishop)

        Bill Callahan

        Gold Record

          For his first record in….uh, well, just a little over a year (!), Bill Callahan’s given us his first Gold Record. They can’t all be gold, and they’re not all six years apart either — all good! You could probably call the album “Gold Records,” too: all the songs have a stand-alone feel, like singles, meant for you to have a deep encounter with all of a sudden, from the start of the song to the finish. And what do you got when you have a record full of singles — and let’s face it, hit singles, at that?

          That’s a Gold Record for you.

          From the top, it’s clear this is music with an affection for people, as Bill immediately slips easily and deeply into his characters. Among them: a limo driver, a watcher of television, a suitor, a man in a broken-down car, a reader of books, a Ry Cooder superfan, and in the closing number, a wanderer who “notices when people notice things”. The voices of the people, with their ups and downs, their loss and laughter. You can feel the love.

          For Bill, preparing to tour for Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest meant considering being away from home for long stretches of time — maybe up to a year, who knew? Feeling his oats, Bill pulled out a few sketches from over the years and touched them up. Before he knew it, he was recording them, and in the shuffle, newer songs started popping up.

          It happened fast. Basics were recorded live with Matt Kinsey playing guitars, guitars, guitars and Jaime Zurverza holding it down “and then letting it go” on bass. Drums and horns were brought in for a couple songs. Spirits were high! Six out of the ten were done first take; overdubs, when needed, came equally quickly. Listening, one hears their intuitive cohesion coming together richly behind Bill’s titanic voice spread across the stereo spectrum: the gentle conversation of Bill and Matt’s guitars, the subtle percussion of the bass and drums, and odd appearances of trumpet, woodwind and synth, striking notes both decorous and discordant, sounding for all the world like the naturally occurring sound meant to accompany and express lives lived everywhere.

          These are in fact songs meant for other people to sing — but until they do, Bill’s got this. He’s got a secret on this one, and before we go, we don’t mind sharing it with you: he’s figured out how to perfectly place his voice in proximity to your ear. It’s based on the distance from your heart to your brain. Simple! Why don’t more people think like this?

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: It would appear that Mr. Callahan is entering a super productive time in his life, with not one but two records out in the short space of a year. This follows on from 'Sheepskin..' in many ways, with the more languid, minimal moments echoing those from the gorgeous 2019 outing, but with a little more focus on Callahan's (still) spellbinding vocal drawl. Beautiful stuff.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Pigeons
          2. Another Song
          3. 35
          4. Protest Song
          5. The Mackenzies
          6. Let's Move To The Country
          7. Breakfast
          8. Cowboy
          9. Ry Cooder
          10. As I Wander

          Bill Callahan

          Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest

            As you listen to Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest, a feeling of totality, of completeness, steals over you, like a thief in broad daylight. Of course it does – you’re listening to a new Bill Callahan record! The first one in almost six years! What more do you need to complete you?

            Or perhaps, after all the time, the obvious needs to be made just a little more explicit?

            First, it’s a different kind of record. Bill’s now writing from somewhere beyond his Eagle-Apocalypse-River headspace, and Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest is very much its own beast. The songs are, by and large, shorter, and there are more of them. It took almost all of the previous three albums to add up to that many. Plus, twenty’s a lot of songs! But again, it goes a lot deeper than that.

            After Dream River, Bill’s life went through some changes. Good changes – marriage and a kid - but afterwards, it was suddenly harder for him to find the place where the songs came, to make him and these new experiences over again into something to sing. His songs have always been elusive, landing lightly between character study and autobiography, as the singer-songwriter often does. This felt different, though. After 20 years of putting music first, he wasn’t prepared to go away from it completely. Or was he? The lives of a newlywed, a new parent, they have so much in them – but writing and singing, it was his old friend that had helped him along to this place where he’d so happily arrived. Was there room for everybody? While sorting it all out, he worked on songs every day – which meant that for a while, there were lots of days simply confronting the void, as he measured this new life against the ones he’d previously known.

            It informed the shape of the album. Moving gradually from reflections upon the old days in “Ballad of The Hulk” and “Young Icarus” to the immediacy of the present moment in “Watching Me Get Married” and “Son of the Sea”, Bill traces the different life lines, casually unwinding knotty contradictions and ambiguities with an arresting stillness. The sense of a life thunderstruck by change infuses Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest– the songs wander from expressions of newfound joy and great contentment to other snapshots, considerations of the not-joy that we all know. Unsettling dream-images and mythic recollections are patiently received; the undertow of the past is resisted, pulling against it instead into the present, accepting revolutions of time and the unconscious as a natural flow.

            These transcendent expressions are wedded translucently to the music. Acknowledging the uncertainty in which the songs were assembled, Bill went to the studio alone, unsure if he could find what he was looking for with a band riding along – because who knew how long it would take? This allowed the fluidity of his song-thoughts to be laid down with the right feeling. Once there was guitar and vocals, the other parts came. Matt Kinsey’s guitar partnership is an essential relationship within the music, as is Brian Beattie’s acoustic bass – but also, Bill found himself overdubbing parts himself for the first time in many years, which lent the songs an episodic drift, as if he’s passing through rooms while singing.

            In it’s final mix, Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest glows incandescent – an entirely acoustic arrangement, sounds and stories shifting seamlessly, almost like one big song made of a bunch of new stories – the kind that only Bill Callahan thinks to sing.

            It’s a joy to hear from this old friend – informing all the lives that we’ve led in the hearing. Good listeners and tired dancers, sing along.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: Say what you will about Bill, but he sure knows how to keep writing the tunes doesn't he? A beautiful mix of brittle jazzy progressions, flickering percussion and swooning syncopated (but never jarring) melodic counterpoint show exactly why big Billy is still so present in our record collections and our hearts.

            TRACK LISTING

            1 Shepherd's Welcome
            2 Black Dog On The Beach
            3 Angela
            4 The Ballad Of The Hulk
            5 Writing
            6 Morning Is My Godmother
            7 747
            8 Watch Me Get Married
            9 Young Icarus
            10 Released
            11 What Comes After Certainty
            12 Confederate Jasmine
            13 Call Me Anything
            14 Son Of The Sea
            15 Camels
            16 Circles
            17 When We Let Go
            18 Lonesome Valley
            19 Tugboats And Tumbleweeds
            20 The Beast

            Dub is a spiritual, abstract, visceral, mystical thing. Finite and infinite at the same time. Deeply rooted in the earth and embracing outer space. Don’t be fooled by names, dub has come and gone. Dub is a ghost, a duppy.

            Here you will find versions of the ‘Dream River’ songs that have been killed and resurrected, spilling tales of the other side of life in a language conceivable only if you let yourself be taken there.

            Introducing a worldwide audience to the bumpin’ and rollin’ new sound of Bill Callahan.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Andy says: If you loved last year's parent album as much as we did at Piccadilly, you'll think you've died and gone to heaven when you hear this blissed-out dub version. Totally gorgeous!

            TRACK LISTING

            Thank Dub
            Expanding Dub
            Small Dub
            Call It Dub
            Ride My Dub
            Summer Dub
            Transforming Dub
            Highs In The Mid-40s Dub

            Unfolding like a first view of paradise, then a slightly less ecstatic second view of paradise, and then finally a glance back over your shoulder at that ridiculous notion of paradise, "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle" is awfully pretty — something's clearly making Bill Callahan feel like a natural man. And high in the saddle, with nine sweet new tunes in tow, he's riding herd over a diverse bunch of sounds by top-notch players. Arranger Brian Beattie brought some old friends back into the picture: violins and French horns. Plus, recording in the big state of Texas has given Bill Callahan a panoramic soundscreen, filled with verdant and sparkling sounds, all of which allow him access to the depths of expression, allowing a gentle and stirring view of that which we call 'soul'. Singing as personally as ever while still spinning wild yarns and melodic guitar fictions, Bill Callahan's on an idyll we hope won't ever end.

            Tracklisting
            1. Jim Cain
            2. Eid Ma Clack Shaw
            3. The Wind And The Dove
            4. Rococo Zephyr
            5. Too Many Birds
            6. My Friend
            7. All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast
            8. Invocation Of Ratiocination
            9. Faith/Void


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