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Boomkat Product Review:
Bill Callahan's second post-Smog album is arguably a more solid and consistent affair than Woke On A Whaleheart's occasionally sunny, gospel-influenced sounds, harking back to the more authoritative, poetic works of earlier albums. The first line of 'Jim Cain' provides a great introduction: "I started out in search of ordinary things: how much of a tree bends in the wind?" It's a lyric that mirrors Callahan's uncomplicated yet enormously commanding voice, and a sentiment that hints at the kind of teasing enigma residing at the heart of his craft. For an ordinarily very wily, enigmatic artist, a moment of uncommon directness comes soon after: "I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again" he intimates, seemingly laying plain his temperament during recent albums - and no doubt prompting many listeners out there to start thinking he's talking about his relationship with Joanna Newsom - yet there's always some doubt as to just how much we can really trust Callahan, and we always half-suspect he's smirking at us through that rich, Johnny Cash-like baritone. After announcing "I dreamed it was a dream that you were gone", lamenting the absence of a loved one, the beautiful 'Eid Ma Clack Shaw' becomes part Kubla Khan, part 'Tribute' by Tenacious D, with Callahan claiming to have later dreamed the "perfect song/It held all the answers" yet having scribbled it down the words read as gobbldigook. Rather than merely reporting this fact, Callahan goes on to transcribe and sing a nonsensical chorus full of meaningless words, though it's all delivered with the same seriousness and conviction heard everywhere else on the album. It's at once beautiful and strangely quite tragic, as if these were utterances from someone floundering hopelessly both in their relationships and their art. On the strength of this resolutely on-form album however, we can conclude that the latter, at least, is most certainly not true at all.