Bill Callahan's calm after the storm
Smog closed the decade by confirming his status as the master of all things Americana.
Was 2019 finally Bill Callahan's year? His album Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, released in June last year on Drag City, was on several Best of 2019 lists: a cause for celebration.
Nearly 30 years after publishing his first album Sewn to the Sky under the pseudonym Smog, Bill Callahan has become an icon of Americana, indie folk and alternative country: the fifty-something American songwriter has always excelled in these genres with his sharply disillusioned songs.
However in recent years, the singer has gotten married and even become a father, enough upheaval to give him material to make music from for the time being. It's allowed Callahan to draw material from his everyday life for the first time.
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest holds a few unknown details about his life at home, but Mr. Smog’s talent is such that he manages to convey these anecdotes with such precision that the music still has a real depth to it.
He pairs this with a level of instrumentation that is pared back to the extreme: a simple folk guitar here, a touch of lap-steel guitar there, a dash of Mellotron or a few drops of double bass elsewhere… Relaxed, sensible but not necessarily too smooth, Bill Callahan enters this new stage of his life by delivering his most profound album yet.