“I started out in search of ordinary things…” So begins “Jim Cain,” the opening track to Bill Callahan’s wonderful 2009 album, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle. The album is an intimate, acoustic-based affair. This is Callahan’s second solo album released under his own name (for years he has been recording as: Smog). Basic tracks were captured live in the studio by producer/engineer John Congleton. The string quartet and horn overdubs were arranged by Brian Beattie and recorded separately.
The songs on this record are driven by Callahan’s casual acoustic guitar playing and haunting vocals. Callahan’s dead-pan baritone voice rests front and center, confident albeit shaky. There is a thickness to the sound that quickly recalls classic folk-rock records of decades past. A quick listen to “Jim Caine” will recall the organic thumping, “open barn sound,” heard on records from The Band and Harvest-era Neil Young.
As a songwriter, Callahan is respectful, and never allows the songs to stray too far from the path. This is the sound of a man apparently reeling from a breakup (with the talented songwriter and musician Joanna Newsom). With understated production and honest songwriting, Sometime I Wish We Were An Eagle captures something beautiful; a mind curiously meditating the simple yet obscure wonders that elude us all.
Bill Callahan, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
Drag City [DC-385]