A River Ain't Too Much To Love


Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 29
  2. Negative: 0 out of 29
  1. The subtle backing musicians never overshadow Callahan’s reedy baritone and direct lyrics; they merely add subtle shading and light in the appropriate spots--a restraint reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s use of studio musicians on laid-back classics like John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline.
  2. Entertainment Weekly
    An exquisite mix that conjures train tracks and piney woods. [3 Jun 2005, p.86]
  3. His 12th record holds no surprises for longtime fans, and yet here it is, his best, his greatest.
  4. Burrows deep into the collective unconscious of American song.
  5. A River Ain’t Too Much To Love has more in common with great books than it does with great rock albums; it’s intelligent, introspective, sensitive and best experienced in a very quiet place.
  6. A honky tonk Leonard Cohen, the music of Smog sounds like it's spent all its life half cut in a saloon bar way out in the American mid-west thinking far too deeply about love and life for far too long.
  7. As much as it hurts to admit it, not everybody will get so much out of Smog's latest understated masterpiece.
  8. He's reached another career peak to match that of 1999's 'Knock Knock'.
  9. Mojo
    Callahan is back on track. [Jun 2005, p.104]
  10. Regular Smog-watchers will have become accustomed to a degree of bleakness and black humour, but this time Bill Callahan... taps into a compelling vein of folk history and rural solitude.
  11. Uncut
    The musical settings are crisp, spare, folksy, recalling '96's The Doctor Came At Dawn and allowing Callahan to play one of his best roles: a campfire-friendly Leonard Cohen. [Jun 2005, p.97]
  12. The Wire
    Callahan is a true original. [#255, p.65]
  13. A River Ain't Too Much to Love is a subdued, plaintive collection of songs that accompany silence; they encourage reflection without guile and unveil themselves without a hint of studied artifice.
  14. Paste Magazine
    His sinister Americana is understatedly cruel and sublimely dolorous, with a kinder view of nature than humanity. [#16, p.135]
  15. You’re going to want to hear this one.
  16. An intelligent step forward from a unique and prolific troubadour.
  17. The minimalist arrangements are still here. The bored baritone voice hasn't changed any. The personal-yet-guarded lyrics can be found throughout.
  18. The cryptic, empty songs of Rain on Lens and wandering, upbeat folk-tunes of Supper have been usurped by a renewed focus and direction.
  19. Although not as compelling as his more subversive material, this softening of his sound doesn't carry the negative connotation of an artist losing steam later in his career; Callahan's distinctive baritone and cutting inflection are unchanging and iconic, and show that this sensitive appearance is just one more spin of the kaleidoscope.
  20. [It] doesn't offer many surprises, and as usual that's OK.
  21. New Musical Express (NME)
    Typically minimal and monochrome but beyond the dirge-like pace of tracks like 'Say Valley Maker' lies an unlikely optimism. [28 May 2005, p.64]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. LawrenceP
    Mar 15, 2006
    "This one's called the well..."
  2. stephenm
    Dec 9, 2005
    A must have album, second only to the mighty "Illinoise" by Sufjan Stevens in my best of 2005
  3. plexus
    Oct 19, 2005
    Classic, you gotta hear this record.