Smog A River Ain't Too Much Love

They say folks tend to mellow with age and in the case of Bill Callahan this couldn’t be any truer. Though hardly a church burner, Callahan did however use a viciously scornful tongue and erratic noise in his earlier music, something that’s morphed gracefully into a softer, gentler body of work. On his 12th album, much like on 2003’s Supper, he’s stripped away any Smoggy rough edges and left us with the mild-mannered bare necessities: tenderly plucked guitars, hushed drums and a wizened narrative. Recorded at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio in Spicewood, Texas, Callahan hired Connie Lovatt (bass) and Jim White (drums) as his support, and roped in Joanna Newsom to play some piano, which set the tone for his most revelatory lyrical content and peaceful compositions to date. Always a rather oblique storyteller, Callahan now takes us on a candid journey along the river, in the woods and through the "sweet valley” where he does everything from playfully yell "Fuck all y’all” into a well to dive into murky water after a gold ring. Call it contentment or simply acceptance that life, like wine, can get better with age, but this personal side of Callahan may not be as ardent as past Smog efforts, but it’s a nice and appreciated progression for an artist who’s primarily known for his moody blues. (Drag City)