Bill Callahan is now firmly established as a solo artist, free of the Smog construct that obstructed us from, well, you know, ever admitting he was an individual and a true great, capable of writing lyrics that stopped you in your tracks; of being able to orchestrate an atmospheric, dark, funny Americana as plaintive as it was homespun. And he sounds more mature than ever here.
That’s not to say he was immature before, but Dream River, Callahan’s fourth album under his own name, is such a deft, balanced and measured record, and sparse in its eight tracks, that it makes you forget this is a man who wrote Dress Sexy At My Funeral, who questioned God and his own place in rock’s hierarchy, and faced up (on record) to having never served in the army for his country. On opener The Sing he recounts afternoons spent in hotel bars, while on Summer Painter we share a season painting rich people’s boats. Each vignette is underpinned by little more than wafts of feedback, flute and subtle percussion.
Small Plane depicts Callaghan’s journey most clearly, sharing control with his co-pilot across a mysterious landscape. But we’re alongside, and we think ourselves with Callahan in the cockpit. You feel he is, with this album, at a kind of peace.