Singer/songwriter Cass McCombs obviously has no fear of glutting the marketplace. The nomadic troubadour released two albums in 2011, and his latest, Big Wheel and Others, contains 85 minutes of music spread over two discs. So he’ll have plenty of material to choose from when he plays Boot & Saddle tonight. And much of it is strong – where his previous records have veered between the sublime and the throwaway, Big Wheel strikes a more even balance, maintaining a consistent mood of wry mysticism throughout its sprawling length.
The western-themed bar in South Philly is an apt venue for McCombs, whose self-anti-mythologizing seems to place him in a New Age urban wild west. The songs on Big Wheel and Others triangulate the yearning country ballads of Jimmy Webb, the slide guitar spiritualism of George Harrison, and the ironic-or-not Americana of Will Oldham. Both the title and the prevalent themes of wandering the open road lends the album the feel of a post-modern big-rig compilation, one of those trucker tapes that used to sell on convenience store counters for long-haul drivers in need of distraction. McCombs wraps his observations from the byways in guru-like aphorisms that never quite reveal how deeply his tongue is buried into his cheek.
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