Bill Callahan’s ‘If You Could Touch Her At All’ lacks resonance

Men with guitars. The standard can be so high. Messiahs of sex, of cool, their levels of influence are biblical. But then, Cohen and Dylan didn’t shout when other men, in suits too big for them, started up with harmonicas and shaky speak-singing. The soft spot for men with jangling guitars to sing about love is still tender, it can sound so lovely and earnest. Or it can just sound so annoying, like the man has never worked out other things can be beautiful apart from what he says at parties to other identical men. In the midst of this forms Bill Callahan, and it’s foggy and unclear which side of this rolling tarmac he sits on. His latest If You Could Touch Her At All is nearly so sweet, so gentle. His voice has aged, it’s trusting and knowing. He’s not quite in pain, she hasn’t hurt him too much, and he’s not quite in love; why are songs made of such boring feelings? Perhaps there is a place for men like Callahan, to sing songs like these, in small pubs where other men, standing like a mirror can grumble and listen, nodding along, but never dancing. Perhaps not.

2 stars.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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