Bill Callahan: Dream River (Drag City) album review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMTBill Callahan

Dream River

Drag City

Sep 16, 2013 Bill Callahan Bookmark and Share

Another odd-numbered year, another Bill Callahan long player. His newest, Dream River, is 40 mellow minutes of the singer in a downtempo, reserved mode. His band here rarely rocks the boat, with the warm lead guitar and high, racing pipes of “Javelin Unlanding” the only exception. Normally that would be just fine, because the gentle backing wouldn’t get in the way of his voice and typically individual lyricism. However, while the songs on Dream River aren’t what anyone would consider pedestrian, they don’t feel particularly daring or weighty (especially after the more serious tone of 2011’s Apocalypse). There’s clever humor on display in the barstool blues number, “The Sing” (“The only words I said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you’/Beer/Thank you/Beer/Thank you”), which he delivers in his slow, dry baritone, and outside of one bizarre, grotesque line in “Ride My Arrow” (“Some people find the taste of pilgrim guts to be too strong/Me, I find I can’t get by without them for too long”) there’s little else that’s particularly memorable.

Since his debut, Callahan (or Smog, depending on the era of his discography) has released a new LP at least every other year. He’s been a reliable source for iconoclastic Americana, but it’s hard to get excited about the occasional inessential release. No one will hold it against you if you feel like forgoing Dream River and checking back on the singer in 2015. (

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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September 22nd 2013

Dream River is, and will be voted, one of the top 10 album releases of this year in Uncut, Mojo, Q, and maybe even NME.  So, everyone is entitled to their opinion but 5/10, really? It is depressing that such a cloth ears can get a job as an album reviewer.

January 19th 2014

Of course, taste is personal, but I don’t think the reviewer gave this album a decent chance. At first I too thought that this was kind of a weak album. But after a few listens I realized: this is a masterpiece! So please, Mr. Trunick, give it some more spins, maybe you will start to like it after all.