December 2008

Will Callery - Rider Comin’ In
Feats Records
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

Will Callery’s songs have been recorded by Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Jerry Jeff Walker and other great interpreters, and he’s toured with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Taj Mahal, and other headline performers. Rolling Stone raved about his 1976 debut album, Billboard about the single culled from it, as well as Callery’s multiple talents. After achieving considerable success, he endured drug abuse and health problems and worked for a stretch as a lumberjack.

Callery sings and crafts songs expertly, and Rider’s sound, production, and backup musicians easily make the grade. It’s just that almost every verse of the 13 songs -- most longer than four minutes, many five or even six -- is heavy-handedly and apocalyptic. The lack of artistic distance denies the listener relief through wit, wordplay, or humility, as in, say, the deepest material by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Woody Guthrie, or Bob Frank.

His passionate references to a band of brothers and lines like "So I seek the fire of God/I don’t need no more proof" or "Have you put your hand to the plow / And labored in the fields of your Father" are bound to generate a certain social solidarity. But Callery’s obvious intelligence and songwriting ability cry out for him to give as much attention to his art as to his thoughts and feelings.