It has been six years since Bill Callahan, the widely beloved indie songwriter who once recorded under the name Smog, released his Dream River album. So people were understandably excited when Callahan announced that he would tour this year, and then that he would soon return with a massive 20-song album called Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest. Today, we get to hear the first taste of the new album, and it’s a big taste. Callahan has now shared the first six songs from the new album.
As Pitchfork points out, a bundle of tracks from Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest is now on the streaming services, under the title Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest – Side 1. The Callahan songs “Shepherd’s Welcome,” “Black Dog On The Beach,” “Angela,” “Ballad Of The Hulk,” “Writing,” and “Morning Is My Godmother” are now out there for us to hear.
It’s tough to say anything definitive about new Callahan songs on the first listen; these are songs intended to bloom in our heads over time. But it’s pretty clear that these songs are on the shorter side and that they’re loosely connected to one another. Callahan’s aesthetic hasn’t really much changed; he’s still giving us baritone musings over spacious beds of acoustic instruments. And his writing is as layered and surprising as ever. Also, yes, “Ballad Of The Hulk” does concern the beloved Marvel Comics shit-wrecker: “You know, I used to share a tailor with Robert Bruce Banner.” And “Writing” is a sort of meta thing about working again after a long period between albums: “It feels good to be writing again / Clear water flows from my pen.” Listen to all six songs below.
Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest is out 6/14 on Drag City. Pre-order it here.