Friday, March 02, 2007

Bill Callahan...

In April Drag City will release the first solo album by Bill Callahan entitled Woke On A Whaleheart. You may only know Mr. Callahan from his day job which is being the primary mover and songwriter for Smog. This of course begs the question, why a "solo" record and not another Smog record. This is splitting hairs which need not be split, especially when Woke On A Whaleheart is no less then some of Callahan's most dramatic and wonderful work yet.

Callahan, no matter what guise he's playing under, has always been brave enough to follow his muse no matter where it might lead him. Fortunately, he's always had the artistic freedom to explore genre, to find a voice, and to develop artistically. This is a rarity in today's music world. If Woke On A Whaleheart is where all the experimentation has lead, then there should be an insistence that musicians once again be allowed to fully engage in their craft unhindered by the petty demands of the market.

Callahan's body of work should be should be an American treasure in the same way that Raymond Carver's short stories should be lauded as one of finest cultural jewels, uniquely American and powerfully aware of its environment. It is in this sense, one of cultural value, that Woke On A Whaleheart takes on an aura of an artistic high water mark for Callahan.

As on all of Callahan's projects his deep baritone and it's languorous delivery anchor each song. The songs feel expansive musically, touching on gospel, country, rock, each song filled with subtle changes and slowly building layers. The album is near impossible to pigeonhole as a genre. It simply seems stamped as American, a look both backward and forward at our cultural tectonics and the slowly evolving chasms and collisions that make it fascinating.

Lyrically, again much like Ray Carver, Callahan understands the power of simply placing a word within a sentence, a lyric, a line. He's a master of brevity and the power that it can wield when used correctly. So much is said in small moments, carefully crafted. Unlike Carver Callahan doesn't have a particular affection for the suburban relationships that Carver seemed near obsessed with chronicling in their various states of disrepair and disintegration. The world of Woke On A Whaleheart is more pastoral, as if he's embodying a small town's pace and attitude.

It's an excellent album that only gets better with each listen.

1 song from Woke On A Whaleheart:



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