Bill Callahan: Pictures With Words

Jun 9, 2011

Counting the time he spent performing as Smog, singer-songwriter Bill Callahan has put together one of the most remarkable two-decade runs in independent music. At the rate of roughly an album a year, Callahan's sound has evolved from lo-fi abstracts to poetic art-country ballads — and his singing has gotten lower, too. Now that he's settled into a style, Callahan has begun releasing albums under his own name, and Apocalypse is his latest, herding seven tracks into 40 minutes of American nostalgia and romanticized musings about cowboy life.

"Drover" delves into the latter, and rides hard with some intense guitar strumming. Fiddle, flute and electric guitar occasionally interject to keep the sound fresh, but Callahan's voice steals the show here. He goes above and beyond to paint a verbal image, making whip sounds with his mouth and even mentioning the city clock, which he says is "way off." The song comes to a head when the drover's cattle turn on him, knocking him out cold, but no mind is paid as he rises again. For Callahan's character, such setbacks are minor inconveniences that come with the trade.

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