April 5, 2009
As Still As A River Could Be
Whenever I get stuck trying to explain either 1) my favorite current musical artist, 2) my musical tastes in general, or 3) my general aesthetic stance on the universe, I always fall back on Bill Callahan.
Callahan made one terrific record after another through the nineties and early part of this decade, recording as Smog - and later as (Smog). Red Apple Falls and Knock Knock are particularly atmospheric high points. They also show Callahan’s musical range — he can crank out feisty garage rock, precise minimalist folk, full-throated country gospel, and carefully arranged pop.
Somewhere in the nineties, too, Callahan shifted his singing voice downward; now he’s somewhere in that strange middle road between Lou Reed and the late Johnny Cash. And in 2006, he hooked up with queen of folk Joanna Newsom (previous paramours include Cat Power’s Chan Marshall) and shed the Smog moniker to release his first album under his own name. Woke On A Whaleheart is gentle but exuberant, roots-burnt rock and roll. Of course, then Callahan’s heart got broken again - but he kept the name, and the relative immediacy
His new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, is more restrained than the uneven Whaleheart, but even more beautiful. In particular, “Rococo Zephyr” and “Faith/Void” just blow me away. They officially drop at mid-month — check them out.