Bill Callahanâ€™s latest sure is ambitious: discover whatâ€™s left of the American soul through some of its more cherished and fading myths. Â What makes this particularly effective is that Callahan isnâ€™t afraid to show how some of our fading myths are those of the present day as well as from the Wild West, Big Sky past. Â The seven songs on â€śApocalypseâ€ť canâ€™t help but stumble here and there over such a large task, but Callahanâ€™s dark rich voice and sharp writing get them pretty close.
Mostly Callahan keeps to a simple, acoustic-guitar with rhythm section foundation for the songs, though there are songs that add flute, piano and, most effectively, a heavy drum beat with some fuzzy, angry guitar on the appropriately titled â€śAmerica!â€ť Â Big themes like cattle runs (â€śDrover,â€ť â€śUniversal Applicantâ€ť) mix with the personal (â€śFree,â€ť the powerful â€śBabyâ€™s Breathâ€ť) to explore the many ways in which that gut feeling that something is wrong is playing out inside us and within our history. Â Callahan is enough of a poet to make sure that this message goes down with wit and vivid imagery, not with preachy pseudo-wisdom.
Bill Callahan takes a big chunk out of available subject matter for his latest. Â To use seven songs to describe some of the psyche of the American landscape is to invite hug failure. Â These seven songs just throw out some lessons learned by an American, some painful, some as wide as the Dream that never seems to completely die. Â â€śApocalypseâ€ť is one of his more accessible records, and one of his most fully realized.