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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2005
I first heard "Rock Bottom Riser" by pure chance and came to the immediate conclusion that if the album was in anyway consistent, it would be well worth a listen. In truth, I haven't been remotely disappointed. Smog is Leonard Cohen on smarties; or perhaps Fairport Convention in a thunderstorm; it lies somewhere between the two. If you enjoy folk-rock and the utter simplicity of plucked acoustic guitar and well-measured, uncluttered vocals, this is a fine draft, well worth the savouring.
An excellent addition to any highly selective collection.
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on 4 April 2006
I had heard very little Smog prior to picking up this album: a few tunes off Dongs of Sevotion, but not a lot else. And becasue of that the first listen came as a shock. Very slow, very deep-voiced, very abstract... Not normally my bag at all. But I listened again. And again. And agai... well, you get the picture.
Maybe it's just me, but I continue to find this album a contemplative and meditative joy. Every song (with the exception of the tonal departure of Mother of the World) is beautiful, poderous and measured. Every song contains a thought worthy of thinking and thinking further. The album gives and gives, gently and teasingly, perhaps like the rivers that haunt and inhabit almost every song.
'Let me see the colts that will run next year. Show them to a gambling man thinking of the future.' A simple couplet that slow smoulders with the gentle folly of man. And the album is packed with that kind of subtlety. Maybe not for all people, and maybe a departure from the previous Smog catalogue, but, for me, the album is like a journey home through sunless green countryside. Beautiful and sad.
Lastly I'll mention the 'In The Pines' cover. It couldn't be further from Kurt Cobain's harrowed interpretation (which I love), but it couldn't be better for it. Smog's version is the one I find myself singing these days. Maybe it's another reminder that I'm crawling up the ladder of my 30s...?
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on 14 June 2005
Smog have delivered a quality album yet again. This is a very sparse & deep album compared to the wonderful "Supper" from a couple of years ago but by no way is it lacking in any shape or form. Track 3 "the well" is the pick of the album which tells a hell of a story, other great tracks are Say Valley Maker, In the pines & rock bottom riser though I don't think there is a bad track on the album. Some people I know find smog too heavy for them but I find it enchanting, his voice & his lyrics are something that nobody else can quite match. If you get chance go and see him live, I have seen him three times with the most recent being the Manchester Roadhouse which he belted out most of this album along with a few old classics the audience was dumbstuck. He was that good. As you can tell I cannot recommend this & his previous album enough. Warning SMOG will make your life that little bit more enjoyable.
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on 14 June 2005
For those of you lucky enough to have been intigrated in the world of Bill Callahan this album is an absolute necessity. A calmer sound than on previous recording but no less inspiring, haunting and beautiful- his acoustic guitar is his companion on this particular journey.
One of the few artists/songwriters who can effortlessly make all my hair on my arms stand to attention with the simplest of melodies and the sparsenss of his deep voice.
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on 1 July 2010
Togheter with "Knock Knock", "Dongs Of Sevotion", "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle"
and "Apocalypse" this is Bill Callahan's finest album.

Compared to some of his earlier work there is a real gentle tone to a lot of the songs,
and as always he comes up with those single lines that are strangely moving, like the
part in "Rock Bottom Riser" where he goes: "I saw a gold ring at the bottom of the river..."
He is one of very few artists who is capable of saying a lot with few words, and he has
that deep baritone, somewhere between talking and singing, that nails down the lyrics.

As everything else I write on Amazon, this is a simple recommendation, not a review,
and as the stars go, I sometimes find it difficult to decide on four or five stars. Strictly
speaking the full five stars ought to be reserved for the near faultless albums, where
the quality never drops, but on some albums the highlights carry so much weight that it feels
natural to give it 5 stars, even if the standard drops a little on a few songs.

Say Valley Maker, The Well, Rock Bottom Riser, Drinking At The Dam and Let Me See The
Colts are all GREAT songs, and the rest isn't too far behind.
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on 11 May 2008
I think this is Smog's best album. Each song is a classic. I've been listening to it for years and still love it.
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on 11 July 2014
A wonderful collection of songs from the great Bill Callahan. It really doesn't get any better than this. Perfect from start to finish. A modern classic!
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on 29 February 2012
This was recommended by a friend and I wasn't at all disappointed. Dry (humoured) and wry but with an overall sense of sadness. Wonderful stuff.
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on 22 September 2010
At this point in 2005 Bill Callahan had fully excised the `rock' from Smog's music. This album is not a radical departure from previous ones, however, Bill's voice has completely lost any residual weediness, and the music is kind of rootsy, and not `lo-fi' at all. Possibly around now he had realised that he was actually quite good, and here he sings with more confidence than ever before.

Palimpest sounds quite bleak, in a good way, with a gingerly plucked guitar and Callahan's blacker-than-black vocals combining for a fine little tune, although at less than 3 minutes it's a little short, leaving this listener wanting more. The album settles into its groove with Say Valley Maker, which like many of the tracks here ambles along in an unhurried fashion, with deftly plucked guitars and brushed drums.

The Well is faster, with a fairly simple repeating guitar figure and some almost jaunty fiddle. There's a real spring in the step of this one, with a change of pace here and there for good measure. Rock Bottom Riser is the emotional heart of the album. It sounds like an instant classic, with a simple descending guitar pattern and a great vocal from Bill. There's some lovely piano by Joanna Newsom round the edges of this one.

I Feel Like The Mother of the World comes next featuring what sounds to me like banjo in a fairly unstructured song, that works nonetheless. In The Pines is a cover of an old folk song, and it's an interesting version in that rather than a straight cover version he sings kind of around and off the beat, supported by some eerie whistling and fiddle.

Drinking at the Dam is a kind of calm, relaxed song with plenty of room to breathe in it. I first heard this when I was driving away from Dublin, listening to the radio on a Sunday morning. I remember how calm it was and how it perfectly reflected a quiet Sunday on the roads, and also how much I hoped the signal of the radio would last till the end of the song (was well outside Dublin). Musically it is quite an airy track, with a little guitar here, a little piano there, and some lovely wordless `aah' backing vocals which really make the song. There's a great line about "for the first part of my life I thought women had orange skin".

The playing is really very fine on this album, which Bill Callahan produced himself and did a fine job, with each instrument given room to do its own unhurried thing. Later on the album I'm New Here is another idiosyncratic track, consisting solely of plucked guitar strings and a boastful lyric: "met a woman in a bar, I told her I was hard to get to know and near impossible to forget." Her response? "She said I had an ego on me the size of Texas!"

The album alternately evokes cold clear days and hot sticky ones. Not quite sure how the music achieves this! It's one of the finer Smog albums, though it's light years away from the 90s Smog albums like Doctor Came At Dawn and Red Apple Falls.
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on 12 July 2015
Loved it.
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