Bill Callahan Melloncamp

First, I’d like to note: yesterday Prawnfork posted “Just as the Day was Dawning,” a new track from duo Big Business’s Here Come the Waterworks. I’d like to proudly point out that almost a frikking year ago J Frank Parnell posted for download and raved about the original version of this track, which appeared on Kemado records’ Invaders comp along with the Sword and Dungen and other neu metal acts. The new version adds needless synths, but the good news is that the rest of the album might be better, save one dud track. Prickfork mistakenly describes bassist Jared Warren’s vocals/yelling as “Ian Mackaye pitch;” it’s Lemmy pitch, dummies. Motorhead fans will love this stuff – imagine Lemmy singing for the Sword.

I’m hungover, sinus infected, and behind on my $ making writing. But the sun’s coming out. While making myself a hangover-helper breakfast of eggs over easy, bakery-bread toast, water, and a small bit o’ coffee (bad for the sinuses, but this morn is a must, despite my week of success kicking the coffee habit), I’m listening to the new Smog record — no wait, this is a Bill Callahan record — no wait who gives a shit.

I think he should have changed his name to Smog Monster. Or Smog Newsom.

I jumped on the Smog train in 1995 with his still wonderful Wild Love album – “Bathysphere”” was one of the first songs I learned/figured out on guitar. I rode the train until 2000, jumping off for three weak records, Dongs of Sevotion, 2001’s Rain on Lens, and 2003’s Supper. Each had their moments, and I still own all three, the latter on vinyl, but the moments were too few.

I jumped back on for 2005’s A River Ain’t Too Much to Love, wherein Callahan returned to his simple, repetitive instrumentation, which grounded and offset his superior and often odd lyric work (“River Guard,” off 1999’s Knock Knock, is one of the few rock songs of the past 10 years to approach the level of quality poetry).

So the new one, Woke on a Wahleheart, due out April 24, isn’t as immediately gut-hitting as A River Ain’t Too Much to Love, but there’s much to love, and therefore I put it on the shelf next to his pleasing works. Neil Michael Hagerty allows Callahan’s acoustic guitar to remain the hinge and coats arrangements with a live-sounding coat of bucket-drums, infrequent, stealthy electric guitar, and violin. I’m digging the mellotron on “Diamond Dancer.” Best of all, backing vocals appear when least expected; “Footprints,” for example, is almost a soul song, but not overtly.

BC’s lyrics here aren’t immediately compelling, because he’s grinding an impressionistic axe, mostly, either about himself or other characters. Just means more investigating.

For my money, and because my kid likes the record and she’s rarely wrong, this record’s rep will be made by “Footprints,” “Diamond Dancer, “Honeymoon Child,” and this song, “Sycamore,” with its gorgeous guitar interplay and sweet, simple metaphor.

Bill Callahan – Sycamore

I think Callahan’s made a Willie Nelson record. Moving to Texas will do that to you.

Buy it April 24.

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