On his millionth album, Bill Callahan drops the Smog moniker but keeps the rest
Mr. Callahan has finally completed his two-decade transformation from malevolent provocateur to aphoristic folk-rocker. Smog was a concept—inscrutable, misogynistic; he peppered
his daunting lo-fi albums with abrasive no-fi experiments. In truth, Callahan could've dropped the Smog moniker a couple albums ago, and it makes sense that the creator of A River Ain't Too Much to Love's dreamy naturalism, and his latest's upbeat trad-folk might want to distance himself from the persona he'd finally escaped. The way that
time-tempered baritone patiently enunciates wry wisdom on the gospel-tinged Whaleheart is deeply familiar—rivers and sycamores are
condensed symbols; a girl dances until she becomes a diamond—and one feels glad for Callahan, for his long-delayed emergence into a spiritual clearing.