As we try to survive these divided times, “Love Thine Enemy” from Cass McCombs’ 2011 release, Humor Risk, is a welcomed vibe compared to what exists outside our headphones. One that, whether intentionally or not, reminds us that no matter how much we’re surrounded my complete B.S. and hypocrisy, especially during this fierce and comical political battle, there is always “sincerity” and intention to balance things out.
There is also a sense of unity on “The Same Thing,” where the lyrics spotlight how even with the differences, we’re all “on the same street” and “we’re cut from different sets of the same cloth.”
And that’s what Mr. McCombs excels at, not only the crafting of words and thoughts that resonate to the now, but glide along in grace with his notes and chord creations.
The guy is also a tenacious songwriter, releasing not one but two full-length albums in 2011, Humor Risk and Wit’s End (on Domino Records and produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who also produced the 2009 album, Catacombs). How many of us wake with a certain song in our head written by someone else? I expect he rises with a new song that he wrote during his dreamtime. Which would make sense, given the slumber, trance-like nature of songs like “The Living Word” and “Meet Me at the Mannequin Gallery” off Humor Risk.
The earlier album, Wit’s End, has a melancholy lean, with a black and white, winter mood emphasized more by piano versus guitar, providing a sorrowful harmony to his vocals. Even the song titles like “Memory’s Stain” ache for days gone by, as if the last carousel on earth had finally gone to the graveyard, taking it with it the joy of youth and love…as the cello sings its funeral song.
As opposed to musicians who came before him, McCombs seems to find inspiration in the dusty literature section of a used book store, the back alley that’s adjacent to the city rehab center, or the corner of the window sill above his bed where a spider is busy spinning its web, awaiting for the fly to arrive for dinner.
It’s the space in between where beauty and pain, regret and hope, clarity and confusion all live in harmony. If ever there was a genre section in the record store for this specific description, that’s where you’d find Cass McCombs.
You’ll also find him on tour, trekking across the U.S. during these cold, winter days. As the last leg of his tour, McCombs arrives in Denver on Friday, February 3 to play Hi-Dive, and goes on to Salt Lake City to play Kilby Court on February 4 before heading to the U.K. at the beginning of March.