Reviews \

Bill Callahan, ‘Woke on a Whaleheart’ (Drag City)

Josh Modell // May 18, 2007

Give Bill Callahan credit for knowing when to bury the Smog name: Though still anchored by his peculiar mind and baritone, Whaleheart is galaxies away from the downcast, claustrophobic songs that have defined the nomadic singer/songwriter for more than 15 years. Callahan’s not all smiles and rhinestones now, but he’s definitely succumbed to a sort of Music Row bug, using sunnier melodies and instrumentation on songs that you can almost imagine as hits for hatted-and-booted performers (“Sycamore” even has an island feel!). The change isn’t unwelcome — overcast days can be wearying — but, skirting the emotional depths that marked his past work, Callahan’s new persona feels almost shallow.