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Within three seconds of Bill Callahan’s new album, the sound of a gorgeous pedal steel seeps into the opening song. It wails like a wordless cry, setting the sumptuous tone of “Dream River,” Callahan’s fourth studio album under his own name since dispensing with the moniker Smog. With eight songs that unfurl to 40 minutes, it’s impeccably crafted and plays off a mercurial tension between Callahan’s voice, a parched yet resonant baritone, and the lush arrangements that envelop it. These songs have soul, drive; even when they spiral into psychedelic visions (dig those flute interludes all over the record), Callahan sounds like an assured storyteller.
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