Dream River [VINYL]
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Cabin crew, prepare for landing! Gliding through low altitudes, Bill Callahan has set his sites on the runway. It is 2013 and he’s ready to land again, with a full cargo for the people down below on earth. From way up high, everything looks so small. But then you land and it swallows you whole. You disappear into the little models, and the trains keep rolling by. And the lights go on and off again. And the trucks on the highway, bound for parts unknown. 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. Bill and the beaver alike are riding high on this Dream River. Lyrically, Bill tugs at the loose strands of a scene and unspools ’em until he comes to the knot. Or if he’s out of doors, he ruffles through the chaff that makes up the haystack, looking for something hard and sharp. The days of the all-needle haystack are gone, but Bill still finds something that gets beneath the skin, even when surveying moments of easy contentment. He pans out to a long shot to give us perspective — and drifting, finds another set of circumstances to regard. The subjects shift conversationally, like a kaleidoscope, revolving out from a tiny glinting detail reflected in windows we look through every day, windows that aren’t even there to begin with. The plainspoken flies with the poetic in these songs, along with the sudden jolt of something you remember: we call it laughter. In this passage, many stories are told. 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 their 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.
Top Customer Reviews
People who are familiar with previous albums of his will recognise Bill's Ohrwurm melodies, his unhurried vocal delivery, his beautiful, often perplexing and perhaps oracular lyrics and the sparse but atmospheric percussion.
The guitar sometimes reminds me of Joni Mitchell's Hejira and at other times -during echoey, psychadelic flights- of something out of the 70s, and the jazz flute makes me think of Gil Scott Heron.
Treat yourself. This really is a brilliant album, which you will listen to again and again. Bill's voice deserves a much wider audience.
Dongs Of Sevotion, A River Ain't Too Much To Love, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
and Apocalypse. Dream River will go down as another one.
At first I thought the arrangements on Dream River were a bit bleak. I'm not sure why,
but after spinning it a few times, they feel quite the opposite.
Bill Callahan's gentle strums, Matt Kinsey's electric guitar that keeps creeping in to great effect,
building the tension, the percussion from hand drums and brushes, fiddle, bass, organ and
Beth Galiger's chirping flute, they all contribute to music of depth and beauty.
He's developed an original way of singing and is a master of making the lyrics
stick with his slow, laconic delivery, and short, almost unnotable pauses. He has
a gift for wordplay and phrasing, and can move you with the tiniest of gestures.
Standouts: The Sing, Javelin Unlanding, Small Plane, Ride My Arrow, Summer Painter.
A river ain't too much to love,
that's how it seems,
but I woke on a whaleheart
on the river of dreams
and found myself gazing
at an eagle frozen in flight,
sewn to the sky,
it disappeared in the light.
There are gentle ballads ('Small Planes') where he seems truly contented ("I really am a lucky man, flying this small plane"); Shuffling, soulful gems ('Spring') - a gorgeous summertime track, driven by brushed drums, picked and rhythm electric guitar and taken up high with flute and stunning, organic, effect-driven guitar.
'Dream River' once again lifts the bar. It will be on end of year great albums lists, that's for sure. You will want to play it again and again. Best on vinyl, not doubt, but best get a spare needle - you'll need it sooner than you think.
Buy it - it's really that good!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love Bill Callahan rawness. It is exactly what I look for in an artist, someone genuine doing something from the heart, great voice, not over produce and raw. Read morePublished 6 months ago by tolsta marvin
I've followed Bill for a number of years since he was (smog)/smog.
His 'solo' career has been a steady improvement (except 'Eagle' which was a significant leap forwards) and I... Read more
This is an excellent album. Lie down in a field or on the sofa and listen to this laid back album.Published 13 months ago by Simon Zohhadi
One of those albums that confuse.
Do I love it or hate it.
Still not sure.
Some good songs , but his voice is so un engaging.
File under ' not sure'
it's such a mellow deep album. I really am a lucky man. it just gets better and better.Published 20 months ago by the main man
this is music for grown ups - no cliches no easy crowd pleasing riffs, but trust me if you like it ( and you should) then you will never never tire of it. Read morePublished on 26 May 2014 by nick peterken
A strange, complex and beautiful album. In an age of disposable pop there is something fragile and enduring about this.Published on 1 April 2014 by che1970