Catacombs (07.09, Domino)
Byline: You saved my opinion of singer-songwriters.
For: Townes Van Zandt, Virgil Shaw, Early Ryan Adams
You know this good because the video (below) single-handedly prompted me to buy this album on a whim, displacing the new Sunset Rubdown for another month. Sorry, Spencer Krug, I promise I'll get around to it! Seriously, the video for "You Saved My Life" is stuff my dreams are made of. A pretty uneventful first 3 minutes, and then POW! You are straight up kicked in the face with one of the most visually jaw dropping displays of unabashed art for arts sake ever. Needless to say, Cass McCombs follows a similar pattern. On first listen you are lulled into a false sense of security. "Ok, this is one of those nice folksy, country singer songwriter types." A type of plebeian every-man who inhabits every darkly lit bar from here to Reno. But another listen comes and you realize something very strange is happening under the surface. Cass McCombs is hands down one of the most cerebral songwriters I have ever listened to. There is just something disconcerting about a song titled "The Executioners Song" in which Cass pens a touching ode to the joy of having a job that gives a sense of security and self worth with the lines "there is work/there is play/there is play that is work/and play that is play/and work that is work/and in only one of these lies happiness/I'm a pretty lucky guy I love you and I love my job". There are moments like these that leave your jaw on the floor. "Don't Vote" has a shuffling tempo that drives a tale of an unsure 18 year old who is faced with the tension between disillusionment and civil responsibility. Aside from the slippery philosophical Kyons and heady codas, there comes another sense of awe. And that comes from the very big heart in every song. Love songs abound through Catacombs most prominently the minor key opener "Dreams-Come-True-Girl" which contains the line "You're not my dream girl/You're not my Reality Girl/You're my Dreams-Come-True-Girl". I want to embroider this on a pillow and give it to my wife. There are moments when Cass's soft country-tinged croon drifts into the upper key slightly out of tune while the slide guitar and sparse hit on the snare punctuate a perfect moment of silence. Seriously. And I don't care if "You Saved My Life" becomes the song that plays during the climactic prom-dance scene on a WB teen show or whatever, I will love this song and video until the day I die. Top 10 material for sure.