Bill Callahan has a couple dad jokes for you

In 2019 Bill Callahan broke a bout of writer’s block that had lasted more than five years with Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, a 20-song concept record about the satisfactions of family life. Gold Record, which arrives just 14 months later, sustains its predecessor’s sparse country-rock sound. And while it wastes no effort on trying to shape its ten songs into a cohesive statement, several tracks elaborate upon Shepherd’s themes. Having embraced fatherhood on Shepherd, Callahan now revels in daddishness by dispensing advice, telling jokes, and laying down rules. The limo-driving narrator of “Pigeons” preaches tolerance to a pair of newlyweds. “Ry Cooder” is an escalating tall tale about the titular guitarist’s slick licks and yoga skills. And on “Protest Song,” he upbraids a singer on late-night TV who is “messing with a man’s toys,” with the tone of a cranky pop who won’t let you touch the contents of his toolbox but sure will let you know if you don’t hold your hammer right. If Callahan is concerned about staying at the top of his game, he doesn’t show it. And the way he layers intimations of past and future losses into “The Mackenzies,” which describes a friendly encounter between an elderly couple and their agoraphobic neighbor, proves he has nothing to worry about.   v

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