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Rock Bottom Riser: Bill Callahan

Posted by Miss Ess, October 11, 2007 03:46pm | Post a Comment
red apple falls smog album cover
Smog
's Red Apple Falls is so simple and so beautiful.  I put it on today after not having heard it in years. The songs have abill callahan smog transportative effect on me.  There's something about the combination of Bill Callahan's deep voice and the pared down-ness of the music behind it that makes me perk up and listen so intensely that I can get totally lost in all of it.  I love that.  It's almost like a blanket, since I have been listening to Smog for so long.  Red Apple Falls has songs that are fable-like and also songs that are so real I cringe when I listen to some of the lyrics.  Callahan has a certain bold power; he is able to admit things that others would be too afraid of, and he sings about it all without even slightly cringing.  When I imagine him in my mind, singing these intimate songs with a straight face and a voice devoid of much emotion, he's a staid soldier at attention with his gloved hand tucked into the breast of his brass buttoned uniform.  It's lovely and brave.
bill callahan live smog
I saw Bill Callahan play this Sunday night.  His voice has grown so much deeper even than before.  It's more confident and he seems even more comfortable with himself and his songs, which would make sense since, after all, he's an artist and artists develop and grow with time.  Callahan's first album came out in 1990!  He's been at this a very long time, and only gets better.  He mostly played tracks from his newest album Woke On A Whaleheart, but for me the showstopper (as it has been for the last couple of years since he's been playing it) was "Rock Bottom Riser", from his 2004 album A River Ain't Too Much To Love.  It's another almost painfully real song, exceptionally and austerely delivered.  It was a great show.
smog knock knock bill callahan album cover
My favorite Smog record is Knock Knock from 1999.  Whenever I hear the song called "Let's Move To the Country", I just wanna drop everything, grab a blanket and run outside so I can lay in the sun and contemplate leaving everything behind and making a fresh start somewhere far from everything else.  Again, the tune is really transporting for me.  Callahan's songs bring up images and stories and ideas that are timeless but he writes about them in ways that seem different than how anyone else has ever done it before, and sometimes they are even a bit shocking, like in the song "Dress Sexy At My Funeral" from Dongs of Sevotion, another of my favorites.   Here is a performance of that song:

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