CD Review: Jim Callahan’s “The Poet”

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew
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CD Review:  Jim Callahan’s “The Poet”

By Dave Carew

The first country album I ever bought was Kris Kristofferson’s The Silver Tongued Devil and I. I didn’t give a whit about country music at that time—just that Kristofferson seemed like the real deal and that already I’d liked a song or two of his. I appreciated that Kristofferson’s music seemed in no way contrived . . . in no way slick or otherwise divorced from the painful and beautiful world he saw around him. Jim Callahan’s The Poet reminds me of that album.

The songs on this record, in fact, arise from one of the most painful and frightening experiences a human being can have: a battle with cancer. “After winning a battle with cancer in January of 2010,” Jim writes in the album’s liner notes, “I began to evaluate my life. I looked at what I have done, what I have not done, and what I needed to do. Much of that conversation with myself shows up in these songs.”

The conversation must have brought him closer to what mattered to him most—not only the desire to express a spectrum of emotion and feelings through music, but to ask that people respectfully listen to that expression. In everything from the wistful yearning of “The Poet” to the slightly Dylan-y “Other Than That” to the hurts-so-good vibe of “Coming Home,” Jim Callahan is like the ardent street minstrel who catches your eye, and makes you feel it’s important—very, very important—to listen to what he has to say.

If music is—to use the word Jim uses in “The Poet”—the most “mystical” of art forms, then it can be the “painting” from which we derive the most playful joy and the most painful reflection. And that—all of that—is what The Poet feels and sounds like. No fan of Kristofferson, John Prine, or Guy Clark should miss this record.

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.




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