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