Album review: Bill Callahan, Dream River

By Graham Reid

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The final song on this short, emotionally dense album finds our weary, baritone narrator driving home in winter, listening to a Donald Sutherland interview on the truck radio as "time itself means nothing".

In this simple moment - as a slow fiddle keens supportively - he realises when life is beautiful you should just keep on with it.

If Callahan's elliptical Apocalypse album two years ago lost listeners after the superb Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (09), Dream River is the one to come back for.

In the opener The Sing he's at a hotel bar in conversational mood ("the only words I've said today are 'beer' and 'thank you"') and admits he has limitations "like Marvin Gaye". But thereafter this album frees itself from the earth (literally on the pleasure of flight in the seductively slow Small Plane) as our narrator explores moments of truth and revelation through images and metaphors, taking pleasure in life itself while jazzy flute, featherlight guitar and a spacious weightlessness add to the allusive poetry (the visually powerful Spring).

Imagine the exploratory spirit of a darker Astral Weeks recast by a reflective, worldwise 47-year-old living in Texas. Hypnotic.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Less proves more, and life's worth living
Click here to buy Dream River by Bill Callahan.

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