The Artist Formerly Known As Smog strips things back and finally paints his masterpiece.
BY JOHN SCHACHT
An editor I wrote for years ago told me he didn't like Bill Callahan because he thought he was "trying too hard to sound like somebody else." I nearly scratched my head bloody over that one because, love Callahan or hate him, it'd be difficult to find a more idiosyncratic musician since he began releasing music two decades ago.
With such a distinctive voice - lyrically and literally with that sonorous tuba-fone - change in Callahan's music tends to be incremental: subtle shifts in instrumentation, arrangements and tempos nudge in new directions narratives that always root around in the most vulnerable corners of the human psyche. On 2007's Woke On a Whaleheart, his first after dropping the Smog/(Smog) appellation and moving to Austin, Texas, Callahan expanded his songwriting palette of loping gaits, twangy shuffles, chugging rockers and creaky piano ballads with accents of gospel choruses and call-and-response blues. On 2009's Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, he added sweeping orchestral strings and horns, hinting at gothic country while sidestepping its tropes.
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