Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bill Callahan Brings The Show To You On "Rough Travel For A Rare Thing"


Rough Travel For A Rare Thing, the new live recording from Bill Callahan, opens with a quickly spoken, deadpan "Gonna get right down to business tonight" and launches immediately into the opener "Our Anniversary". This is Bill Callahan's first live LP and it presents quite a satisfying cross-section of his career (no pun intended- looking at the cover art). By no means is this a "best of" collection or a definitive representation of all of his work artistically. It is rather, a great place for newcomers to start with Mr. Callahan's large back catalog, and an article that fans will easily enjoy, anticipating his next appearance in town.

Releasing stellar albums on Drag City since the mid 90's, such as Red Apple Falls, Knock Knock, Supper, Rain On Lens, and A River Ain't too Much to Love, Bill Callahan shed his Smog moniker for 2007's Woke on a Whaleheart, and its follow-up, the superb Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle in 2009.

Live, as documented excellently here, Mr. Callahan's arrangements lean towards the sparseness one may expect from his best albums, but are surprisingly amped up by his accompaniment on this recording. Bass, drums, guitars, and strings all seem to drive Mr. Callahan to project his Lou Reedish baritone above the music. His voice sounds great, and matched with the pouncing of his band, propels songs like "Diamond Dancer", "Held", and "Cold-Blooded Old Times" to exciting new places.

I've seen Bill Callahan play live both with a full band a few years ago as Smog supporting A River Ain't too Much to Love, and last year with more minimal accompaniment supporting Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle. Rough Travel For A Rare Thing plays more as the full band treatment, which I really enjoy- not just because it differs from the show I most recently saw Mr. Callahan play, but because it accomplishes what seeing musicians play live should make you want to do: revisit their albums you love. Luckily for us, we can play Rough Travel For A Rare Thing and not have to wait until we get home from the club to hear more .

Excellent stuff and well worth checking out.

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