Bill Callahan

Avalanche of local releases for the fall

Texas Platters

Bill Callahan

Dream River (Drag City)

"Drinkin', while sleepin', strangers unknowingly keep me company in the hotel bar," opens Bill Callahan with "The Sing," pulling the words slowly, heavily from dislocated depths. Everything about the local songwriter's fourth LP since shedding his Smog moniker feels caught in that liminal state of dreaming, of the unconscious tension between observer and participant, passive vessel taking in the world and active force shaping it. Behind his plodding baritone on the opener, the arrangements shift subtly as if informed by the hotel's background soundtrack, thoughts floating between the bars. "Javelin Unlanding" likewise unfolds mystically within the blurred electric guitar and Beth Galiger's flute, an untethered perspective that continues attempts to pull away from the world in the soft peace of "Small Plane." More restrained than 2011's Apocalypse, Callahan's lyrics and vocals pare down to an essentialness, his low croon weaving through Thor Harris' controlling rhythms and thickly dripping in patterns that suggest greater understanding unspoken in the pauses. "Summer Painter" may be the most fully realized and evocative song, the drawling memory of painting boats rising in the cataclysm of a striking hurricane as Callahan vacillates between the need for and folly of control. Closing the eight-song set with the stretching moans of "Winter Road," the music again twisting within the varying sounds of the radio dial, Dream River comes to an embrace of the moment. "Time itself means nothing/but time spent with you," he sings. Callahan's search for meaning becomes fully realized when he's finally connected to another.

***.5

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan Finds an Elder Perspective on New Album
Bill Callahan Finds an Elder Perspective on New Album
Paternal dynamics paint the Austin virtuoso's new Gold Record

Rachel Rascoe, Sept. 18, 2020

Bill Callahan Album Review
Bill Callahan Album Review
Gold Record (Drag City)

Kevin Curtin, Sept. 18, 2020

More Music Reviews
Review: Johanna Heilman, <i>When We Were Electric</i>
Review: Johanna Heilman, When We Were Electric
When We Were Electric (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, June 30, 2023

Review: Large Brush Collection & Creekbed Carter Hogan, <i>Split</i>
Review: Large Brush Collection & Creekbed Carter Hogan, Split
Tape of tender lullabies envisions a warm refuge for queer people

Wayne Lim, May 12, 2023

More by Doug Freeman
Austin’s Crucial Concerts for the Week
Austin’s Crucial Concerts for the Week
Jackie Venson, Grace Sorensen, Monte Warden, and many more

May 17, 2024

A Pickin’ Party, a Big Squeeze, and Mother’s Day Music Are This Week's Crucial Concerts
A Pickin’ Party, a Big Squeeze, and Mother’s Day Music Are This Week's Crucial Concerts
Some recommended sounds for your week

May 10, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bill Callahan, Balmorhea, Roky Erickson, Robert Rodriguez

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle