I knew of 'Smog' and Bill Callahan before but it wasn't until I read a review which quoted lines from 'The Sing' - "the only words I said today were 'beer' and 'thank you'" - that I was intrigued enough to pursue him further. I knew from the opening chords that this would be a very special lp for me. A mundane Monday morning on my way to work, transported to another place by 'Small Plane' - "I really am a lucky man", painting boats for the Summer, travelling along a Winter Road. As Fernando Pessoa pointed out we are truly our real selves in dreams.
I have been following and listening to Bill's music since his lo-fi productions as Smog, and he hasn't dissappointed me yet. Dream River is an album that needs some listening to before it sets in. The lyrics and Bill's voice soorthing to the core, in up and down days. Simply magnifique!
This is a really enjoyable offering from Bill Callahan and think it is his best yet of the four he has released under his own name. I also loved all his work under the Smog moniker my particular favourite being Supper. Love the prominent flute contributions and this instrument seems to be making a welcome comeback as I do not recall its use much since the seventies but then again my memory is not the best. The distinct vocal style and delivery may alienate some people I would imagine but is all part of his appeal. Reading the lyric sheet on first play it had me wondering how he was going to smoothly incorporate words such as 'scaffolding' (the sing) and 'kaleidoscoping' (spring)into the songs but he does so with ease. His wordplay is still interesting, clever (e.g. Bar room morphs into barroom on 'Seagull'- you may have to listen to understand) and has down to earth messages at its heart. The musical accompaniment is superb and adds to the overall dream river experience - a kind of blissed out almost surreal feel which envelopes the listener.
An album which repays close attention and repeated listening from a great songwriter. Always original, interesting and challenging, Callahan writes and sings beautiful tunes to go with his wonderful lyrics that stand repeated listening. A really great musician who should be better and more widely known.
I was already familiar with Bill Callahan's stunning, soothing, laid-back bass tones from the excellent 'Apocalypse', 'Sometimes I wish I were an Eagle' and 'Woke on a Whaleheart', but this album reaches new heights, as Bill's voice effortlessly plumbs new depths.
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.
.Bill Callahan has released a number of truly great albums over the years, Knock Knock, 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.
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. You know the feeling- when you get some great music and it rocks your boat, but after the 10th time of hearing it suddenly you can't stand to ever hear it again? - well that doesn't happen with Bill Callahan. Play it a hundred times and on the 101st, you'll still be delighted by it. it's subtle poetry that keeps on opening up meaning, and the music is beguiling, all topped off by Bill Callahan's idiosyncratic and great voice. You owe it to yourself to take a slow ride down this river
Totally agree with Dave Gilmour's Cat review. Bill's like Port Wine - he gets even better with the age... No big difference from his older works, indeed... Maybe a even more mature sound and arrangements with some psych guitar moments on "Summer Painter". Of course I'm already addicted to Dream River and of course I already know this will be one of the best records of the year... Oh yes, and there's "Javelin Unlanding" an instant classic in the BC's tradition, with a magical wandering flute and guitar arrangements, that could make team along, with songs like "In the Pines", "Diamond Dancer", "Rock Bottom Riser", "Real Live Dress" or "Cold Blooded Old Times", just to name a few... A must have! (my friends know I don't give 5 stars to an album so easily...)
This is an album by a singer/songwriter new to me and in the Jim White or Handsome Family school of Alt Country. Some classic lyrics herein though...."the only words I've said today are Beer...Please...Beer"