BOOK REVIEW: Bill Callahan – “I Drive A Valence: The Collected Lyrics”

Singer-songwriter Bill Callahan might be known more for his early lo-fi aesthetic and morose Minimalist middle period than the pensive Leonard Cohen-isms of his lyrics, but it’s not for lack of trying. So goes the thesis of I Drive A Valence, a Drag City-published book that finds Callahan cherry-picking selections from his finest lyrics and presenting them alongside his own stark black-ink images.

The book is thorough, for sure, and a real treat for Smog aficionados and Callahan completists looking for that baritone-inflected fix. Some of the illustrations even tap into a damaged performer’s psyche, offering up the longing and violence you might expect, or commenting on said expectations. But how could Callahan not include his finest couplet, that two-line killer from Julius Caesar?  “I remember answering you/ I’m gonna be drunk, so drunk, at your wedding.”

Have a well-worn copy of The Doctor Came At Dawn, kid? This one’s for you.

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