Cass McCombs Big Wheel and Others

Cass McCombs Big Wheel and Others
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California troubadour Cass McCombs might just be the most famous hobo you could name. Think of all the reasons why a stable roof over your head is advantageous and he'll show you seven-and-a-half albums why a shelter-free existence works for him. In 2011 alone, he released two of the year's finest records, Wit's End and Humor Risk, demonstrating he can have prolific surges. Two years later, he's back with Big Wheel and Others, a whopper of a double album featuring 22 songs in 86 minutes. McCombs tries on many different hats, but has the skill to produce mostly positive results. His bread and butter is the more insular '70s folk rock jams, like standout "There Can Be Only One" and "Untitled Spain Song." But hearing him flirt with jazz on "It Means a Lot to Know You Care" and the AM dial-reaching, sax-led "The Burning of the Temple, 2012," not to mention the Lou Reed vibes of the challengingly nine-minute-long "Everything Has to Be Just-So," bring nuances that almost make this marathon listening experience worth it. It's a struggle, at times, though, more because there's just too much of it. Maybe it was the separate releases that made his previous two albums easier to digest, but Big Wheel is a little too extensive to enjoy in a single sitting. However, hearing the recently deceased Karen Black croon sweet and strange lovelies on the country-western "Brighter!" is too good to miss. Treat it like two single albums and you'll enjoy it that much more. (Domino)