When you see over twenty tracks listed, you think either someone has a lot to say, or they need an editor. Cass McCombs is the former, his sound is so pleasing and easy going he could have recorded a box set and it would have all been listenable. With Mike Gordon of Phish playing bass here and there, the thumping backbone of the rhythm section lets his vocals echo and wisp above it all while remaining strong and direct. “Big Wheel” trucks along strong, a beat similar to “When the Levee Breaks” chugging on as Cass purrs seductively with the slightest sneer. The slide is used to maximum beautiful effect in “Angel Blood”, amazing AM pop hooks that remind me of early Beatles through it and the remainder of the album. Some tracks are more segments of songs, as McCombs seems to be sharing any idea he had at the time, fully formed or not. “Brighter!” appears twice, a melancholy song that sounds like it would have fit in on the Twin Peaks soundtrack, and then having cult actress Karen Black take over the vocals the second time around, giving the song and even eerier turn as her final performance before succumbing to cancer.
“There Can Be Only One” has a very Velvet Underground feel to it with the flat story telling vocal delivery, bouncy bass from Mike Gordon (Go Cactus!) and shimmying drums from Furthur’s Joe Russo sprinkling all over the album. “Name Written on Water” is as close to an homage to Bob Dylan as you can get, the repeating Watchtower sounding rhythm growing stronger and stronger as his snarky delivery questions life. The production on this album is great, warm with a vintage feel that just sounds so damn pleasant. This is one of the better and more prolific songwriters out there right now, and with his galley of talented collaborative friends, there’s no telling the body of work he will create in his lifetime.
“There Can Be Only One” with Mike Gordon: