Bill Callahan Album Review
Gold Record (Drag City)
By Kevin Curtin, Fri., Sept. 18, 2020
Who is Bill Callahan? "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," he personates amidst the opening notes of "Pigeons," where the patiently talk-singing poet inhabits an old man driving newlyweds around in a white limousine, administering wisdom: "When you are dating, you only see each other/ And the rest of us can go to hell/ But when you are married, you're married to the whole wide world." It's gold-standard lyricism from the prolific Austinite, replete with out-of-the-ordinary details and smirking wordsmithery. At the song's end, he reveals his name again: this time, "L. Cohen." For certain, the low-voiced local occupies artistic territory with Leonard, but Gold Record also spins reminiscent of Bob Dylan's summer surprise Rough and Rowdy Ways in its zoomed-out lyrical portraiture and employment of pop culture references, from Kid 'n Play to "Ry Cooder," whose ode spins one of the collection's few tossed-off moments. Last year's similarly acoustic-guitar-driven Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest delved relatively autobiographical – domestic even – but now Callahan inhabits a multitude of characters over 10 songs. "The Mackenzies" covers great existential ground through a guy finding empathy in his neighbors. "Protest Song," though, surely captures the artist in first person, playfully flexing at a phony singer on late-night TV faking realness. "Step aside son," Callahan repeats. "You're gonna get hoyt."