If there is one thing that shines some light during this pandemic year is that Bill Callahan has quickly returned with another batch of songs that documents his thoughts on the life that surrounds him. In fact, Gold Record has a little bit of a continuation sound vibe from last years excellent Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest but lyrically strays a bit more into the future and covers surroundings compared to the marriage and joys of parenting we heard about last year.
The different subject matter gives Gold Record more short stories and topics, so as an album it is not quite as focused but from an individual song writing perspective – there are still plenty of gems for Callahan fans to cherish. His voice, still incredibly low, is entrancing and nothing changes on Gold Record as his talent is to pull you into the lyrics as he strums his acoustic guitar. I also love how easy sometimes it is to identity with his songs. Not sure what that might say about me at this point but I enjoy on “The Mackenzies” when he sings “see i’m the type of guy sees a neighbor outside, stays inside and hides – i’ll run that errand another time.” You know you have done that with your own neighbors! Or on “Breakfast” when Bill states: “she hates to watch me eat, or go hungry, still loves me you see.” Guess what? That can be marriage. Lastly, on the more bouncy “Ry Cooder,” Callahan just has fun. The track starts off “Ry Cooder – he’s a real straight shooter.” I can’t really think of a past song that Callahan has written that has this sort of tongue in cheek rhythm. The best part is – the fun still works for Callahan.
I think anyone that has followed Bill Callahan over the years, either with Smog or his solo work, can testify that at this point he is an indie staple and it would be really hard for him to put out a bad album. Currently, I feel his music is about how good a new album is. For fans, without hesitation – Gold Record is a winner. For more casual listeners, Gold Record is not as deep Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest (2019) or Dream River (2013) but I think it still shows how human we all can be with Callahan’s honest reflections. The ten tracks here are engaging and memorable, which is a must for any album that I will potentially revisit. Gold Record is worth the return trips!
Key Tracks: “Pigeons” / “The Mackenzies” / “Ry Cooder”
Artists With Similar Fire: Will Oldham / Silver Jews / Lambchop
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony