Cass McCombs (born in Concord, California in 1977) is an American singer-songwriter and performer.
An enigmatic folk nomad, McCombs is a quintessentially American artist; "he's quietly become one of (the country's) finest chroniclers of fringe characters, a writer of heart-rending love songs and psychedelic odes to the natural world, a teller of tall-tales with a sense of humor dry as desert wood, and that rare folksinger who actually sings about the folk." His vocals range somewhere between the anxious drone of Lou Reed, the hollow croon of Elliott Smith, the lilting melody of Morrissey, and the driving earnestness and complexity of bards such as Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. His lyrical style is alternately vivid and weary, laconic and yearning, or drifting into the high-spirited and whimsical.
After cutting his first EP, Not the Way in San Francisco in 2001, McCombs relocated to Baltimore, MD. There he released "Not the Way" in 2002 and recorded his first full-length, A, in 2003 on Monitor Records. He spent the next few years touring: playing All Tomorrow's Parties; and opening for bands such as Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, and Belle and Sebastian; before recording his second LP PREfection, which was released on 4AD in 2005.
McCombs' subsequent releases have been on the highly successful British independent label Domino Recording Co. 2007's Dropping the Writ was named one of Amazon's Best Albums of that year. Catacombs was voted one of the 50 greatest albums of 2009 by Pitchfork Media, and features Academy Award-nominated actress and singer Karen Black on the track Dreams-Come-True-Girl. During this period, McCombs toured with the likes of Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, Band of Horses, José González, Beach House, and The Walkmen.
Catacombs also established McCombs' relationship with engineer/producer Ariel Rechtshaid, member of The Hippos and Foreign Born, who produced Grammy-winning hit Climax for Usher, the Plain White T's Grammy-nominated No.1 platinum-selling single Hey There Delilah, and albums for Vampire Weekend, Sky Ferreira, Snoop Lion, and Haim, among others.
In 2010 McCombs played Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, L.A.'s Culture Collide Festival and Invisible Children Benefit. 2011 offered an extensive headlining tour, an appearance at SXSW, and two albums released by McCombs and produced by Rechtshaid: Wit's End in April and Humor Risk in November. The two albums were made simultaneously. In an interview with Pitchfork, McCombs explains: "Wit's End was started years ago and it slowly made its way to the finish line. Humor Risk was just punched out. They're friends but they're different. Wit's End is like a stew; Humor Risk is the raw food diet."
Big Wheel and Others, McCombs' seventh full-length (and first double album) was released in October 2013. The album is rooted in the Americana mythos of the Wild West, from the San Francisco drug culture to the gunslingers and gold rush of the nineteenth century. The album once again features Karen Black on a version of the track Brighter!, her final recording before passing away due to ampullary cancer in August, 2013. Big Wheel is dedicated to her memory.
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