Cass McCombs :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

"Most of my albums are a simple collection of songs that have nothing to do with each other except that they were written around the same time and, perhaps, have some recurring themes,” songwriter Cass McCombs told Relix in 2013. His new collection, A Folk Set Apart: Rarities, B-Sides & Space Junk, ETC., is the result of taking away the shared time frame, a collection of songs written between 2003 and 2014, with little regard for genre -- the comp encompasses Velvets-style drones, experimental cowboy poetry, mellow folk pop, and protest ballads — and disparate themes. If McCombs’ albums are normally scattered, A Folk Set Apart is even more so. “All my records are kind of like collections, but this one being the most obvious,” McCombs tells Aquarium Drunkard via the phone. But like his best work, it hangs together in a curiously coherent way, tied together not formally, but emotionally.

Cass McCombs :: Evangeline

“I don’t know if it has flow, but it’s a weird journey and you can see the mutation of the music, of my voice even, and the people I play with…it’s definitely not commercial music,” McCombs says.

Over the last 15 years he’s worked with a number of collaborators, including guitarist Chris Cohen, drummer Joe Russo of Furthur, Mike Gordon of Phish, Tim Dewit of Gang Gang Dance, all of whom shade and color his songs and appear on the new collection. “I love playing with people who know their craft, who have a voice, something to say,” McCombs says. “You give them full reign to do whatever the fuck they want to do, they embrace that and do something with that.”

The collection is a testament to McCombs’ trust in his colleagues, but also his omnivorous musical tastes. He reels from garage punk on “I Cannot Lie” to gentle roots pop on “Three Men Sitting on a Hollow Log,” from ass shaking riff rock like “An Other” to the “hillbilly bop” of “Catacombs Cow Cow Boogie,” a “mutation of Duane Eddy, Link Wray, the Ventures -- that kind of [music was a] transition from hillbilly to rockabilly to surf and something even more randy,” McCombs says. Many of the songs featured were released on split singles with artists like the Meat Puppets, Michael Hurley, and White Magic, sharing McCombs’ love of their music and their singular approaches.

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