Uncut - p.974 stars out of 5
- "The musical settings are crisp, spare, folksy...allowing Callahan to play one of his best roles: a campfire-friendly Leonard Cohen."
The Wire - p.65
"This latest portal into the curious world of one of America's most imaginative songwriters finds his music pared right back. Accordion and violin crop up from time to time, but most of these songs just feature guitar and occasional drums."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.64Ranked #45
in Mojo's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2005" - "Bill's imagination...remains somewhere dark, remote and unsettling."
Smog: Bill Callahan (various instruments); Connie Lovatt (bass guitar); Jim White .
Personnel: Bill Callahan (vocals, guitar); Connie Lovatt (vocals, electric bass); Thor Harris (hammer dulcimer, drums, zills); Travis Weller (fiddle); Joanna Newsom (piano); Jim White (drums).
Additional personnel: Thor Harris (airdrums); Joanna Newsom, Travis Weller.
Recording information: Pedernales, Spicewood, TX (11/2004).
Photographer: Petr Neubert.
Like fellow southern singer/songwriter Will Oldham, Bill Callahan (AKA Smog) has been moving steadily over the course of his career toward a more straightforward musical approach. Whereas some of Callahan's earlier efforts were concerned with fractured song structures and experiments, 2005's A RIVER AIN'T TOO MUCH TO LOVE finds him at his most appealingly direct. Like most Smog albums, this one is stripped down (comprised mainly of Callahan's guitar and voice augmented by violin, piano, and light percussion), but the writing is particularly honest, intimate, and revealing.
That A RIVER AIN'T TOO MUCH TO LOVE was recorded in Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios may have something to do with its rustic simplicity; it is rootsier and more country-inflected than any previous Smog album. A slow-motion country treatment of the Leadbelly song "In the Pines" drives the point home, but Callahan's lyrics--which demonstrate his usual flair for narrative, imagery, detail, and moving confessionalism--are the real anchor, sounding as though they were written during a winter-long hibernation in a backwoods cabin. Songs such as "Say Valley Maker" and "Rock Bottom Riser" extend the river metaphor suggested in the album's title, and lend a thematic flow to this lovely collection.