“Dream River” is singer-songwriter Bill Callahan’s 18th release since his 1990 debut (during which he has released music under both his own name and his alias/band name Smog). The soft-spoken artist is known for dabbling in multiple genres and peppering his acoustic Americana sound with lo-fi and experimental elements and his baritone lyrics can tend towards the dark.
When compiling his dinner party soundtrack, Callahan recalled his parents’ 1970s dinner parties and went with a subtle, retro sound and a bit of depth below the surface.
Hi, I’m Bill Callahan. I have a new record called “Dream River” and here are some of the songs I would play if I was hosting a dinner party.
Jimmy Webb – Campo de Encino
Well the first thing that came to my mind- Jimmy Webb and his song “Campo De Encino.” It’s on the “Letters” record. Even though he’s also a really good singer, something about his voice- he could be like sitting next to you at the dinner party. Dinner parties always remind me of the 70’s for some reason. I don’t know if it’s cause that when my parents were having them, so music from the 70’s seems to be the most, like apropos. There’s a lot about food in there. He talks about wanting to be a vegetarian and eating artichoke once in a while. I was a vegetarian for 18 years and I quit about 2 years ago and it’s still a wonderful novelty to eat meat- I still get excited about it.
Burt Bacharach – Something Big
The next thing I thought of was Burt Bacharach and I just thought of that song “Something Big.” He was one of the best lyricists around and makes these great stories and characters. His music is very light and very heavy at the same time, so the arrangements are very doo bee doo. So you can listen to it at that level, it’s very pleasant, almost like elevator music. If you play that song it’ll be in everyone’s head for the rest of the night too. And so it brings everyone together. If everyone has the same song torturing them then it’s kind of a unifying thing at a party.
Lonnie Holley – All Rendered Truth
The third song is by Lonnie Holley and it’s called “All To Be Rendered.” I’m actually on tour with him right now. He’s opening for us. Lonnie is in his 60’s. He stared out as a visual artist using stone and found objects. He has some stuff in the Smithsonian and he just started recording music only a few years ago, but I’m sure he’s been singing all his life. It’s just keys and vocals- just a penetrating, unforgettable voice. He’d probably shut the dinner party up because everyone would stop talking and just listen. I regretted picking him as an opener once that dawned on me, like a hard act to follow, but you know, it’s still good.
Bill Callahan – Spring
If I had to play a song from my new record at a dinner party, I would probably play “Spring” and I would probably go into another room while everyone listened to it and come back when it was over.