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BILL CALLAHAN

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?

    Bill Callahan

    Live At Third Man Records

      Bill Callahan, fka Smog, is simultaneously a staple of strange American country, lo-fi, folk and independent music. His lyricism comes across as challenging and deeply autobiographical, equal parts "poetry leaning on true-to-life darkness" and "three chords and the truth."

      So, it is fitting that Callahan’s live set would command the same sense of friendliness-with-difficulty that the recorded songs do. With brief, candid, and charming interludes between older and newer material, an outsider can hear that this performance was obviously a full-bodied (and multi-era) engagement, no space left for distraction.

      The full album is an experience; make it one you look after. 

      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!

      In the song world of Bill Callahan, the present realities tumble ecstatically like cloth in the wind - sheets and flags and clothes. These things borne aloft are not simply physical details in the landscape, but the contours of an emotional one as well. Bill’s a cartographer way out there, tracing the coastlines, telling the tales he has discovered along the way. Some seen in life and others in mind’s eye, they float down ‘Dream River’ with humble eminence.

      The river that was once deemed not too much to love, that once freed convicts and their guard in a still and silent moment, is now a ‘Dream River’, fished in a variety of depths, viewed in panorama. This is a waterway that winds across the landmass, a ribbon that touches and changes and feeds and gives to and takes from many lives as it rolls to the ocean.

      Dialed into the mindset, the ‘Dream River’ instrumental crew man a hovercraft that bears the songs along, humming deeply with bass and percolating with the abiding resonance of hands drumming on skins, the lively popping of claves. Guitar strums fan into blooms of smoke, sliced through by other guitars taking other forms - shards of mirrors, plumes of ignition, telephone wires, snakes and ladders plunging through the depths of the sky. The musical modes are exquisite, aquatic; shifting in delicate but deliberate undetectable time as Bill’s lyrics wander from yard to yard.

      ‘Dream River’ is the fourth studio album from Bill Callahan, following the sweet devastation of ‘Apocalypse’.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Patrick says: It's easy to paint Bill Callahan as a world weary traveller. After all, he's fourteen albums into a twenty year career, deadpans with the best of them and has been known to dwell on death and destruction more than a Scandinavian drama. His last offering, 2011's ‘Apocalypse’ sees two protagonists meet their maker before side-B is through, amongst a general discourse on devastation and despair. But if ‘Apocalypse’ was the storm sent to purge the earth, then ‘Dream River’ is the verdant calm that follows. Bill has always explored natural themes, even back in his days as a lo-fi auteur, and on this album they abound. As ever water is the most prominent motif, whether it be a river, ocean or rain, with Bill's warm baritone deep enough to drown in. Elsewhere, flight is the focus as arrows, javelins and seagulls all soar through clear skies adding to the lightness of what is certainly Callahan's most uplifting album to date. But what is most striking about ‘Dream River’ is the happy marriage of Callahan's trademark Americana with soul. Aside from the lyrical nod to Marvin Gaye and Bill's Callier register, the congas and claves of Thor Harris lend a temperate groove to proceedings, while Beth Galiger's flute doffs it's beret towards Brian Jackson, inspired by Gil Scott-Heron covering ‘I'm New Here’. Once again the excellent Matt Kinsey returns to add his psychedelic guitar to the record, magnifying the transportative qualities of "Summer Painter" and "Javelin Unlanding". ‘Dream River’ sees a mature Callahan at his best casting a musical spell that only breaks when the needle hits the centre.

      Essentially an ensemble recorded live in the studio, Bill Callahan’s "Apocalypse" is the corpus delecti. Something happened here. If tape is like meat, this record is the whole hog - no cuts.

      Callahan, riding on the back of his band, corrals them all and guides them single-handedly with love and ferocity.

      Bill Callahan is a recording studio guru, a tastefully rampant singer-songwriter, a heartthrob, a visual artist, a statesman for the times and an author. His songs have been featured in films such as "High Fidelity", "Dead Man’s Shoes", and "Youth In Revolt". Artists as diverse as Gil Scott-Heron, Flaming Lips and Cat Power have recorded his songs.

      Whereas the last (Smog) LP was steeped in lo-fi country, Bill Callahan steps out from that beloved moniker to deliver his most accessible record yet. An aesthetic shift is apparent with the polished sophistication of "Diamond Dancer", an irresistible groove featuring funk basslines and raggedy fiddle floating above a gospel chorus of female backing vocalists. Callahan's unmistakable voice and poetic lyrics are as unique as ever, tracing the timeless connections between romance and sense of place like only he can. However, whilst the R'n'B rhythms and Motown string arrangements glitter on this album, Callahan hasn't abandoned his love of country, as evinced by "A Man Needs A Woman Or A Man To Be A Man". Evoking the maverick spirit of both Neil Young and now Paul Simon, Callahan confidently stretches the canvas of his already colourful tapestry.


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      RT @cstrecords: And for those wanting to dig into the back catalog, @PiccadillyRecs also has an extensive collection of other Constellation…
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      RT @cstrecords: UK fans can now preorder the physical editions of Markus Floats' Third Album and T. Gowdy's Therapy With Colour (both out 2…
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