Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
To Bill Callahan: Today is a day that you would like and we say this with some sureness in our breath. We feel it in our guts and our chests that the insistent pelting of rain and the unbreakable herds of hurrying gray clouds would be to your liking. If we can remember, the next time we stop the car to get out and take a leak, we'll take a photograph of exactly what we're seeing and we'll find a way to capture that sensation of the brief stinging cold of a droplet of early spring rain landing on the tops of our hands and we'll send that to you. It might not be right away, but, then again, we don't have your address and really don't know how to get it to you simply. Maybe we'll just hold onto all this stuff, put it into an envelope and get it to you the next time we see you. Whenever you get it, the wait will be worth it. You'll smile, we think, but then again, we're not sure how much you do that sort of thing so we won't be upset if you don't. We know that it's in there somewhere. One of the things that we like the best about you is how complicated you seem, how we never really can get to your center, though we've always felt - through the years and years - that you've brought us right up close enough to enough hearts that we can smell their pumping. We've been happy enough to throw our own sight aside, close our eyes and just let you mess with our emotions on all these records - doing so carefully, but steadily guiding us into these gorgeous flings with a whole universe of fragile psyches and the ways that they get molested and abused.
Your new album, "Apocalypse," and the set of songs you decided on here for your session add more tales of woe and struggle to your name and we would argue with anyone that you're one of the foremost experts in the art, a real craftsman of those broken wills. We hear you singing from inside the head of a horse on "Clackshaw," "Show me the way/Show me the way/Show me the way/To shake a memory/I fix my forelock/I twist my withers/I reared and bucked/I could not put my rider aground/All these fine memories are knocking me down/I dreamed it was a dream that you were gone," and we're struck by a thought that the horse is as much a sad-eyed man, stuck in a rut, as any sad-eyed man is. We want him to kick that fucker off his back and work through its emotional scars, privately and on its own terms. The horse needs a solo journey. You sing about love being "the king of the beasts/When it gets hungry, it must kill to eat," and we can easily feel the meat being torn from our carriage by sharp teeth grown for that specific reason, just doing what they were meant for.
You, sir, strike us as a man with the ability to open your mouth and swallow all of these gray clouds we have before us and exhale them back out again, turning them into the shapes of the creatures and the hungers that we hold within, like one of those folks who can put a piece of string in with the tongue and tie a knot with it. We like to think that you're trying to tell us that this is exactly what you're doing, when you sing on "Unusual Applicant," "Bees only swarm when they're looking for a home/So I followed them/I found the bee's nest in the buffalo's chest/And I drank their honey that milk/I've seen this taste cased in almost every face/That's working to see it in all/And this kidnaps me." We could be off, but either way, we'll put all of this stuff in an envelope and get it to you somehow. Love, us.
Bill Callahan Official Site