The Austin Chronicle

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, April 17, 2009, Music

Bill Callahan

Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (Drag City)

Horses, trees, and birds surround Bill Callahan on his 14th LP. The adopted Texan's gone on a vision quest, and on opener "Jim Cain," he sums it up: "I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again." 2007's stellar Woke on a Whaleheart found him miles from Smog's lo-fi folk prophesies, the music revived, almost jubilant. Eagle's halfway there but sounds preoccupied, his stoic baritone never giving too much away. Since dropping the Smog front, Callahan's discovered a more nuanced way of writing songs. Two-thirds of locals Horse + Donkey back him, as do Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg and Thor Harris on a few tracks, Callahan engaging in a mellow trot through Brian Beattie's strings. The songs are even and graceful, in no big hurry as they ponder love, loss, and the dreams brought on by both. Middle Eastern instrumentation on "The Wind and the Dove" and experimental synth interlude "Invocation of Ratiocination" are a nice change of pace, but the repetitive imagery and the fact that Callahan's voice is the main attraction make Eagle feel like affirmative chant. Closer "Faith/Void" assures over and over it's "time to put God away," and while Callahan doesn't let us any further into his spiritual mind, it hasn't gone completely dark again.


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