I think one could easily build an argument that Bill Callahan is one of the stronger singer/songwriters of the past 25 years. The Smog band leader had a multitude of great albums and then his solo career has been a fascinating journey to hear through his lens. He does not just write songs – he writes stories and on YTI⅃AƎЯ his love for a good narrative continues.
We last heard from Callahan on his 2020 album Gold Record that found him moving away from his more individual looks at life lyrics and fell into a more fictional short story. Now we find Bill emerging like the rest of us from the pandemic with a cautious but optimistic vision. It should almost be a given that his songs are solid but what really stands out on YTI⅃AƎЯ is Callahan’s full band sound. Each track is given a full treatment of talent that includes the skills of Matt Kinsey on guitars, Emmett Kelly on bass and backing vocals, Sarah Ann Phillips on B3, piano and backing vocals and Jim White on drums. Matt and Jim also chip in several times on the vocal duties which adds depth. You will also hear several synths compliments of Bill which may be somewhat surprising to some along with the addition of Carl Smith contributing contra alto clarinet, and then Mike St. Clair and Derek Phelps on brass. It is an array of collected talent that gives the record a warm surrounding vibe.
The album’s 12 songs pushes over the hour mark, so if there was any complaint here is that the record plays a bit long. Even with the lengthy run time, the bigger sound works well as Callahan also puts more emphasis and force in his vocals. The bold strength comes out with a more indie rock authority on tracks “Drainface” and “Naked Souls,” while dare I say there is almost a boogie song on here with the foot tapping “Natural Information.” This upbeat spirit behind the music is not something we have heard from Callahan in some time and it translates to a captive listen. Like most of his catalog, YTI⅃AƎЯ is meant to be absorbed over multiple spins. Each track has the ability to carve a memorable moment in your mind as Bill Callahan once again is inviting, sincere and an American songwriter that should be heard!
“Bowevil” / “Naked Souls” / “Natural Information”
ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy / Smog / Purple Mountains