Oh Mama, Cass!

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A Review of Cass McComb’s “Big Wheel and Others” by Betty Davis

Twenty two tracks creates 85 minutes of music, a veritable everlasting gobstopper of an album.  And if you’ll indulge me in metaphor… Cass McComb’s newest album plays that way too. It gets off to a good start but pretty soon you’re feeling a little tired and wondering if it’s going anywhere. At some point you might even be ready to risk your precious enamel to chew through it.  Or, maybe you lose the flavor half way through and wonder whether or not to continue.
The title tune and first musical track, “Big Wheel,” kicks things off with a nice rambling shuffle.  But the groove is lost somewhere around track 10, a nine minute long head scratcher entitled “Everything Has To Be Just-So.”  And there are 12 more tracks to go… “Big Wheel and Others” feels like an awfully long ride.
If you decide to get off the bus a this point you’d miss some professional work and solid playing.  Cass and company are tight in their sessions and set a mellow, thoughtful mood.  The surprising instrumental “It Means A Lot To Know You Care, “Brighter!” (with and without Karen Black), and “Honesty Is My Only Excuse” are a couple personal faves.  On these tracks, the ensemble achieves a balanced combination of clarity and fuzz, pep and pensiveness.
But the length of the album puzzles me.  As does the addition of the interview snippets with Sean, a young boy, which punctuate the album.  The long track list is overwhelming and makes it easy for songs and ideas to become lost and the interviews don’t contribute to the cause. They interrupt any continuity that might draw the composition together more.

“Big Wheel and Others” is a big listen with a lot to say… if you can hang in for the entire ride.

If you want to experience Cass McCombs in person with local band Arbouretum, head to the Ottobar this Saturday, December 14. Tickets available at MissionTix.

* Author Betty Davis loves music. She does not believe that the world needs another cover of “the weight.”
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