7/10 Clinton Staff review, 13 September 2013
I was thinking this morning: "Why don’t I own more Bill Callahan records?"
I tend to always like what I hear of him (certainly post-Smog, who didn’t always do it for me). For the uninitiated, he has a rich, chocolate-brown voice and sings sad, slow laments which could eventually see him become a sort of Leonard Cohen.
The opener here, ‘The Sing’, is typical of his compositions although a little busier than on his recent couple of records. There are slabs of Straight Story style viola, with guitar flourishes coming in and out of the mix, but what it's all about is the vocals and words. (It contains a great line, ‘The only words I’ve said today are beer and thank you’.)
In fact, as the album moves on it's increasingly apparant how much Mr Callahan’s sound is merging with that produced by Lambchop. They are virtually interchangeable. To me it's at its best when it's at its simplest. ‘Small Plane’ is gorgeous but I’d be much much happier if the additional instrumentation was less intrusive. It sometimes feels as if the musicians were paid per note. It gives the album a bit of an adult contemporary edge, which is a shame as otherwise it's lovely.
It could be a taste thing. I generally prefer the stripped-back records from anyone from Bonny Prince Billy to Nick Drake, and I just feel there is no place for a flute on anyone's record nevermind a Bill Callaghan. ‘Ride My Arrow’ certainly is an example, which perhaps benefits from some colourings. Coming across not unlike Tim Buckley, it has an atmospheric LA-style vibe to it that just makes you want to melt.
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