An eclectic singer/songwriter with a haunting voice who balances emotional richness, awareness, and wry demeanor in his lyrics, Cass McCombs negotiates styles including Americana, Baroque pop, psychedelia, and sprawling jam band folk-rock, among others, in his music. He made his label debut in 2002 with the EP Not the Way. A series of unpredictable records followed, including 2008's Dropping the Writ — his Domino Records debut — and his first album for Anti-, 2016's Mangy Love. His eighth studio LP overall, the latter appeared on both the Billboard rock and Americana/folk charts.
After bouncing around the country writing songs and honing his craft, McCombs' work caught the ear of Baltimore label Monitor Records, which released his first EP, 2002's Not the Way. McCombs' debut album, A, was released early the following year and was distributed in Europe and the U.K. by 4AD. Early in 2005, the "Sacred Heart" single revealed the more polished and poppy direction of his second album, Prefection, which arrived that spring. Recorded in studios and at home, McCombs' third album, Dropping the Writ, was released in October 2007, followed by Catacombs in 2009. For 2011's Wit's End, McCombs opted for a dark, chamber music-inspired sound. The album landed in the Top 15 of Billboard's Heatseekers and Americana/folk charts. Before the year was out, he returned with the "Bradley Manning" single, which he premiered on the Democracy Now News Hour, and another new album, Humor Risk. The following year, his song "Love Thine Enemy" was performed by the National and Bob Weir.
McCombs released the sprawling 22-song double album Big Wheel and Others in 2013. The record, which featured vocals from actress Karen Black on one track and contributions from musicians Mike Gordon (Phish), Joe Russo (Furthur), and Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman), found the singer digging deep into Americana and exploring a wide range of sounds and styles. Domino Records then released an anthology of McCombs' rarities and B-sides called A Folk Set Apart in late 2015. His eighth full-length studio album, 2016's Mangy Love, took on sociopolitical topics with accompaniment that dipped into psychedelia, reggae, Baroque pop, and funk. It featured over a dozen guests, including fellow renegade songwriter Angel Olsen, guitarist Blake Mills, and Stuart Bogie of Superhuman Happiness. He followed it with Tip of the Sphere in 2019. With a backing band that included keyboardist Frank LoCrasto, bassist Dan Horne, drummer Otto Hauser, and several guests, it was engineered by Sam Owens, also known as Sam Evian. ~ Tim Sendra & Marcy Donelson