Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Remarkably considering it’s four-sided runtime, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is one of Bill Callahan’s more focussed affairs to date. While his recent records saw him stretching out his limbs and exploring a sun-kissed, if sombre, branch of alt-country, there was still room in the great man’s vision for extended, arguably patience testing experimentation; See Apocalypse’s America!. Only five of Shepherd’s tracks stretch out beyond the four minute mark with none of those reaching five. The elongated runtime affords Callahan to luxuriate in a certain milieu without feeling the need to hustle on to his next thought. And you know what? For the first time in a long time (…ever?) Bill sounds like he is really enjoying himself. As he says on Writing, “It sure feels good to be writing again…”
Callahan has always been at home unpacking the points of The American Sublime where the grandiose meets the frayed, the dust-caked, the dog-eared. Now, happily married and rearing his first child, Callahan focuses his singular insight on scenes from the life of a young family. More so than misery, Callahan’s hallmark has always been profundity and there is great scope for it with this entirely unfamiliar point of view. A masterpiece in its own right, Shepherd is also a testament to the singularity of Callahan’s career trajectory – from instrumental lo-fi noisemaker to one of the most significant voices relating to the American experience of his generation. There are simply not enough superlatives.
Words: Danny Wilson
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