Bill Callahan CD reviewed by Daniel House

Music Reviews
Bill Callahan CD reviewed by Daniel House
Aug 29, 2007, 20:24

Bill Callahan - Woke On a Whaleheart

BILL CALLAHAN Woke on a Whaleheart CD/LP

While it seems odd that Bill Callahan would release a “solo” record, stepping away from his near 20-year nom-de-plume Smog, this release makes a strong enough statement to warrant the switch. Woke on a Whaleheart is considerably less experimental than his earlier Smog output, and trades in on the open aired simplicity for tighter arrangements and a heightened attention to songwriting. As much as I love Red Apple Falls and Knock Knock for their relaxed and dreamy repetitive texture, the layered arrangements on this record including backup vocals, strings, and lapsteel make for an Americana tinged indie-pop record, easily the most straight-forward recording of Bill Callahan's career.

“Diamond Dancer,” Drag City's first choice as a single is an immediate indie-pop classic, with hooks that will keep the song in your head throughout the day. “Sycamore” sounds like a lost track from Lou Reed's Sally Can't Dance, and “The Wheel” is an interesting call-and-response country number that would make Waylon Jennings and David Allen Coe proud.

Callahan's easy baritone and casually conversational quality is still intact, but the songs stand out individually making this a satisfying record, deceptively sublime, as it pulls you in deeper with each subsequent listen. If this is an indicator of the direction that Callahan is taking his music, I will continue to be a steadfast fan. [Drag City]

~Daniel House

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