You may recall that Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy were being very productive during lockdown releasing a cover songs each week that also celebrated the joy of collaboration.
Sir Richard Bishop joined them for a cover of John Prine’s “She Is My Everything” while fellow Drag City compadre Cory Hanson of Wand helped deliver Mike Burton’s classic ‘Night Rider’s Lament‘. Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang turned to Demis Roussos’ 1980 hit single version of Air Supply’s ‘Lost in Love’ and Alasdair Roberts led the band for a cover of Dave Rich’s ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind‘.
They also covered Lou Reed’s ‘Rooftop Garden‘ where his vision of domestic placidity and shared moments of remove amid the urban squalor meets George Xylouris Cretan lute arrangement and not forgetting Meg Baird and a cover of Little Feats ‘I’ve Been The One’.
As guessed, an album is forthcoming on Drag City titled Blind Date Party (out on 9 Decemeber), featuring AZITA, Matt Sweeney, Alasdair Roberts, Matt Kinsey, Sean O’Hagan, Bill MacKay, George Xylouris, Dead Rider, David Pajo, Mick Turner, Meg Baird, Ty Segall, Emmett Kelly, Cory Hanson, Six Organs of Admittance, David Grubbs, Cassie Berman, Cooper Crain and Sir Richard Bishop. While it happened online in the autumn and winter of 2020-2021, the party planning dated back to the spring of 2020.
Drag City: Stuck at home, with no gigs in the foreseeable future, Bill, Bonnie and Drag City needed an outreach program to keep themselves busy, not to mention sane. In the absence of any company or anything on the calendar, playing songs they loved was an idea; playing with people they loved, the desire. And making it fun – so pairing someone with someone else having no say in the matter, the essence of the blind date, was the plan. Favourite songs were chosen; players from around the Drag City galaxy were messaged. Pretty soon, songs were flying back and forth – music in the air.
By autumn, the songs started to appear online: Bill and Bonnie singing a song by someone they loved and admired; each song cut by another artist they loved and admired, then sent to Bill and Bonnie to provide the finishing touches. The spotlight pointed in every direction each week: toward the singers and writers who’d originally played the songs (Yusuf Islam, Hank Williams Jr., Dave Rich, The Other Years, Billie Eilish, Steely Dan, Lou Reed, Bill Callahan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Wyatt, Lowell George, Johnnie Frierson, Air Supply, Will Oldham, Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Iggy Pop and John Prine), toward their featured collaborators, the artists whose artwork adorned each digital single and videos made by still more collaborators.
Like the best parties, it turned out to be everything and more than they’d even hoped for. Now their online sensation comes home to roost on the good ol’ fashioned format that all these songs were originally heard in the first place! A record to, from, for, and dedicated to almost everyone. Suffice to say, making records over the years has required a broad sense of community and an always-surprising mix of independence and unity, inspiration and utility. Some of the best memories are those where as many of our folks as possible were together in one place at one time. The Blind Date Party was one of these, maybe the most improbable one yet. It’s for everyone who’s here and it’s in the name of everyone who’s gone but will never go and will always live with us here. This album will too.