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Bill Callahan:: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (Album Review)

In the first moments of “Jim Cain,” Bill Callahan gives a concise description of his work: “I used to be darker,” he sings, “then I got lighter, then I got dark again.” It’s welcome news for fans who fell in love with Callahan’s mellifluous monotone during his tenure as Smog.

This second release under his given name is a return to partly cloudy themes after a brief experiment with happiness that fit him like a second-hand suit. The gentle, galloping “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” disguises the deeply wounded heart behind sumptuous strings and subtle horns. Middle Eastern accents color “The Wind and the Dove,” which is anchored only by Callahan’s beautiful, leaden baritone.

On “Too Many Birds,” the voice’s weight seems to overcome even the singer; he has to force out each word, to dramatic effect. Not that Eagle is a dour affair: Callahan sprinkles his world-weary perspective with enough wry humor to make the album pleasant and endearing.