Cass McCombs’ Endlessly Intriguing “Big Wheel and Others”

Courtesy of Domino USA

Cass McCombs
Big Wheel and Others

Showing little interest in image-building, Cass McCombs has quietly compiled an impressive body of work over the last decade that affirms the viability of the old-fashioned American singer-songwriter. With Big Wheel and Others, however, he may grab the spotlight in spite of himself.

Running nearly 90 minutes, this sprawling two-disc set brims with striking songs—some of them memorable vignettes of troubled souls, some of them cryptic pronouncements—ranging from delicate and dreamy (“Angel Blood”) to ominous and brooding (“Joe Murder”) to swaggering and determined (“Honesty Is No Excuse”), all of it tied together by diffident vocals that are more tantalizing than revealing.

Highlights include a tender, toe-tapping duet with the recently deceased actress Karen Black (“Brighter!”) and “Everything Has to Be Just So,” a hallucinatory nine-minute head trip. Like M. Ward, only quieter, Cass McCombs is an endlessly intriguing troubadour.