by Michele Zipkin
Songwriter Cass McCombs will perform his deliciously introspective songs at Boot and Saddle on Friday, December 13th. He most recently released his seventh album this past October, a twenty-two song double by the name of Big Wheel and Others. It has been described by critics and fans alike to be his chez-d’oeuvre- the culmination of his approximate decade-long career in music-making. It certainly seems like a pinnacle of ambition and perhaps lyrical transparency.
This collection of songs runs the stylistic gamut, from the percussion-heavy, rock and roll-forward “Satan is My Toy,” to the instrumental, jazz-infused “It Means a Lot to Know You,” to the slight country moan of the pedal steel in in the melodically soothing “Angel Blood.” Two versions of the song “Brighter!” appear on the record, one sung by McCombs, the other by the late actress/singer Karen Black, who delivers quite a powerful if not sardonic vocal performance. McCombs himself gives quite a striking performance, effortlessly skirting between soothing low-end and haunting head voice.
McCombs displays diversity in his singing style and delivery, at times speak-singing in the title track, or playfully repeating melodic lines in “Name Written in Water”- his voice almost evocative of Lou Reed’s in timber and texture. These are songs that feature more snippets of McCombs himself at their center, rather than his usual steez of character-based ballads or overarching commentary. He exhibits genuine and revelatory songwriting both musically and lyrically. There should only be more artists with such melodic originality, stylistic diversity, and narrative boldness.