Album Review

Big Wheel and Others – Cass McCombs (Domino, 2013)

  • Post Author
    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Tue Oct 22 2013


As far as I'm concerned, any new Cass McCombs is always to be taken as a gift. Since his 2011 releases Wit's End and Humor Risk, he has remained relatively quiet (even by Cass McCombs standards). Besides three songs released various places (the political “Bradley Manning” single, “If You Loved Me Before” for LATC #6, and the Michael Hurley-inspired “Three Men Sitting on a Hollow Log” for Secret Seven), he made little dent in the scene for a full year after such strong activity.

Then, this summer, a video of skateboarding found footage appeared on the Internet of a new Cass song (later released on this new album) called “Morning Star.” This brought McCombs back into our lives, as the announcement of Big Wheel was made shortly thereafter.

As far the album goes, I will say it does take a little bit to really get going. It only really starts to hit its stride on the first disc when “The Burning of the Temple, 2012” kicks in with an ominous, sharply hit chord. One compliment I'll give the album is Cass' ability to just try new and different sounds (i.e. the fusion sounding instrumental “It Means A Lot To Know You Care”) alongside his more typical, rolling folk style (“Sooner Cheat Death Than Fool Love”).

The only problem with this album, perhaps, is that no song really stands out over the rest as powerfully as songs like “County Line” or “That's That” on their respective albums. The Sean passages feel a little out of place, in my opinion, but otherwise nothing necessarily falls flat on the album.

One special consideration for this album while listening should be for Karen Black, who sadly passed away before the album's release. She is featured in a solo vocal on the album's second performance of “Brighter!” where she performs a hauntingly beautiful vocal performance that acts as a gorgeous swan song for her musical relationship with Cass.

Overall, this a pretty good album that could rank in the middle of McCombs' discography, somewhere near Catacombs. Either version of “Brighter,” “Home on the Range,” and “Aeon of Aquarius Blues” are my recommended tracks.

-Eric Wiig