Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

Bill Callahan - Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Critic Score
Based on 23 reviews
2019 Ratings: #59 / 760
Year End Rank: #29
User Score
Based on 285 ratings
2019 Ratings: #235
Liked by 3 people
Sign In to rate and review


The Guardian

Humour and subtly shattering insights into a new life as a parent add profundity to Callahan’s expansive album.


The 20-track Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest is without doubt the most revealing record of Callahan’s uniquely uptight career.


Full of love and appreciation for life, which makes more sense to him now than it maybe ever did, Callahan inimitably presents us with philosophical jokes and thoughtful observations on a record that is an adventurous stocktaking of his own life.

No Ripcord

As you listen to this album, you enter a world of beauty and joy, of sorrows and resignation, and finally, in the end, you may even feel wiser for the experience.


A peerless storyteller gazes deep into domestic life and offers a long, sun-warmed double album that is a highlight of his career.

The 405

Musically, Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest stays at a mild canter throughout, as Callahan takes circuitous and fantastical approaches to express his observations on life.

Consequence of Sound

Callahan’s ambition and essence haven’t been diminished by him being in a good headspace. He’s a man born to tell stories, and he’s no less of a storyteller than he was in his early 30s.

The Line of Best Fit

Give it enough time to cohere ... and this largely successful attempt at rebooting Callahan's songwriting soon acquires a hypnotic pull.

Loud and Quiet

A rather touching insight into a musician usually too opaque for true empathy, a shift in stance as welcome as it is unexpected.


'Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest' is a rich and complex album, layered with beautiful explorations of birth, life and death.


Unassuming yet frequently profound, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is a gorgeous and much-needed return from an artist whose powers have only grown during the time he spent living his life.

The Skinny

The seismic changes that have taken place in Bill Callahan's life over the last six years have beautifully informed his 20 song-strong return.

The Observer

Callahan’s gnomic half-smile and his ability to pull the rug out under certainties remain.


At over an hour long, this isn’t an album to dip in and out of – it’s that rare album that you have to commit to, and let it wash over you.

Spectrum Culture

Add two more pages to the bestiary: 1) a mostly domesticated beast; 2) the strangest, rarest creature in the Callahan biome: the happily married Shepherd.

NOW Magazine
If we take his words at face value, our problematic fave is reborn, ready to usher fans into new territory with his most radical role to date: a loving family man.
American Songwriter

This is music to float in. It falls through the cracks between folk, country, jazz and even experimental; chugging and moseying along at its own deliberate pace.

FLOOD Magazine

While so much of Callahan’s past songwriting has felt like poetic exercise, this time autobiography shines through.

The Needle Drop

Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is a wonderfully charming singer-songwriter project held back by a somewhat bloated tracklist.

Could this be Bill Callahan's 'let it all out' answer to Kozelek's 'Benji'? There's something a little more off the cuff, free flowing and confessional about this one so there's an unmistakable similarity there.

What's most impressive is that despite the gap between releases, and despite the album clocking up twenty (count 'em) songs, this might just be the man's most cohesive and repeat plays rewarding album yet.

Callahan classics: The Ballad of the Hulk, What Comes After Certainty, Son of ... read more
It took 3 months of coming back to this for me to score it, because I knew I wasn't appreciating it the way it deserved. You gotta work for this album, you gotta listen and pay attention. This isn't easy music. Perhaps the songs in the key of domestic life just appeal to me in my 'old' age, but there are some life lessons to be found on here.

20 songs, all overflowing with imagery, emotions, sounds and ideas. Truthfully there isn't a bad song on here, and there are more stunning moments than ... read more
The year 2019 is also marked by the return of Bill Callahan. And FINALLY, I want to say! The musician had left us with a sublime record named "Dream River" followed by a "Have Fun With God" which is its dub version a few months later and then he has vanished. But don't worry, He's back among us with his seventeenth album named "Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest". During this time, Bill Callahan has matured a lot on all points. Now married and happy dad, he decides to ... read more
Bill Callahan's first album in six years, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest finds him settled in on transitional phase following his marriage and having kids of his own constructs a a double album that spans 20 songs at his most intimate. Rather than being saccharine, his sound and lyricism dwells on his introspection drenched in heartbreak, melancholy and idyllic romanticism with a demo-like quality, acoustic instrumentation and his rich, signature baritone suggesting warmth earned at being a ... read more
Given that the year is wrapping up, I wanted to try and work my way through as many of the years albums that I possibly could prior to 2019 ending. Of all albums to review, Bill Callahan was one the immediately stood out to me.

Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is a genuine and sincere piece of music, Callahan churning out an expansive double album that to me rarely feels overly bloated or like the tracks don't deliver for the overall product. The album, even at over an hours worth of play ... read more
Purchasing Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest from Amazon helps support Album of the Year. Or consider a donation?
Become a Donor
Donor badge, no ads + more benefits.

Track List

  1. Shepherd's Welcome
  2. Black Dog on the Beach
  3. Angela
  4. The Ballad of the Hulk
  5. Writing
  6. Morning is My Godmother
  7. 747
  8. Watch Me Get Married
  9. Young Icarus
  10. Released
  11. What Comes After Certainty
  12. Confederate Jasmine
  13. Call Me Anything
  14. Son of the Sea
  15. Camels
  16. Circles
  17. When We Let Go
  18. Lonesome Valley
  19. Tugboats and Tumbleweeds
  20. The Beast
Sign in to comment

Added on: May 2, 2019