CASS McCOMBS plays the Rivoli Saturday (July 23). See listing Rating: NNN
California songwriter Cass McCombs traverses darker terrain on his fifth album than on 2009's country-tinged Catacombs. The slow collection sometimes draws from medieval folk music and makes for a good listen late at night, alone on a dark road. On opener County Line, McCombs's soulful falsetto yearns for a place and perhaps a person over organ and quiet electric guitar.
Despite the album title, there's an undercurrent of humour in these songs of loneliness, betrayal and death. On Buried Alive, for instance, McCombs moves from sleight-of-hand to the soul in one inventive rhyme. Ambitious waltz Memory's Stain opens with a classical piano figure and weaves in bass clarinet, harpsichord and castanets. Saturday Song could be a strange Beach Boys outtake, while the drums on mystic UK folk song Hermit's Cave resemble whips.
A difficult but rewarding experience.
Top track: County Line