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Bill Callahan Finds A Garden Escape From The Loud City

Watch the artist formerly known as Smog perform "Small Plane," from his new album 'Dream River.'

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 04:00 PM

New York's brightly lit 6th & B Community Garden, with its lush greenery and mellow wildlife, provides just the right setting for Bill Callahan. New York's brightly lit 6th & B Community Garden, with its lush greenery and mellow wildlife, provides just the right setting for Bill Callahan. (NPR)

Amid the rumble of traffic, crowded streets, and general persistent din of big city life, it can be challenging to find a moment of calm in New York. So it seemed like a peculiar choice when the enigmatic singer-songwriter Bill Callahan said he was interested in playing in a community garden for a Field Recording video Soundcheck co-produced with NPR Music. You could easily envision Callahan's plaintive music and deep, detached voice getting lost in that noisy clutter.

But in fact, the lush 6th & B Community Garden in the East Village was just the spot for Callahan's intimate and eerily transfixing performance. Recording previously as Smog, and now simply under his own name, Callahan writes dark, frequently anguished songs inflected with a bleak sense of doom. And yet, there's actually a surprisingly warm, pastoral quality to his words, and a comforting voice in his sly delivery.

Surrounded by a rich canopy of greenery, ornamented flower beds, and even a small pond full of turtles, Callahan quietly finger-picked "Small Plane," a song from his new record Dream River (out Sept. 17). And while sounds from just outside the garden’s tall gates trickled in, all those distractions of the city just outside the gates melted away.




Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Mito Habe-Evans, Mike Katzif; Event Coordinator: Saidah Blount; Special thanks to 6th and B Community Gardens; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann


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Comments [4]

Jessica Dalrymple from Brooklyn, NY

I so enjoyed this piece, the concept, the garden shots, the song, and the artist.

Sep. 13 2013 06:39 PM
Matt from Brooklyn, NY

Awesome to see this, Bill Callahan playing for NPR in Alphabet City - the beloved 6th and B garden across the street from my old apt. God, I even shoot video for a living, but wasn't invited to this occasion, dammit :) His earnest approach to songs in these hyper-gimmicky times is a breath of fresh air. Saw him play two shows with his band at the Pickathon in Oregon couple years back, and absolutely rocked it.

Sep. 13 2013 09:36 AM
etj from milwaukee

Thank you thank you thank you for this!!! I love it. Great farewell to summer. more and more (smog) please.

Sep. 13 2013 09:24 AM

Absolutely love this!

Sep. 12 2013 10:41 PM

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