I had woke on a whaleheart on preorder from Amazon and eagerly awaited the first installment of Bills story. After the dreamy nylon string folk of ‘A River …’ Whaleheart is a strange record. It sounds a little like ‘Supper’ and ‘Red Apple’, but an overproduced ‘Supper’/’Red Apple’. It lack the unstitched quality of ‘A River’, their are joins and you can see the joins, sense the shift in musical tone and content. Listen, and listen again, Bills voice remains, as does the folk baritone.
On the way back from the bathroom in Glasgow ‘s Mono I noticed a poster with Bills picture, he was touring, ABC 2 in a couple of days and it was not sold out – strange but true. On tour the songs were pared down and without the embellishments seemed to live anew. Bill played a small steel strung guitar that sounded tiny and vulnerable. He stood on the stage eyes front legs akimbo and played song after song, no interaction, pure stagecraft.
Touring an album can often be a less than satisfying experience for performer and audience. Either, the record is better, or its the same as the record, or on rare occasions its better. This was better than the album, it gave you a chance to feel Smog thicken and disperse and see how the music is changing and evolving. Space to listen and wonder what is next.
Bill Callahan plays as himself at the Green Man in August.