Cass McCombs' 'Tip of the Sphere' combines rock songs and tender ballads to contagious effect

With his ninth studio album, Cass McCombs consolidates his reputation as an inimitable troubadour.

Cass McCombs ninth full-length studio album is one that consolidates McCombs as an inimitable storyteller and brings to light his ability to expand on and differentiate from the sounds we have come to admire him for. 

In its oeuvre, Tip of the Sphere is a combination of rock songs and tender ballads, as McCombs experiments with entwining other genres into his own. Opening track ‘I Followed The River South To What’ is a driving start, that continues into the jiving, country-influenced ‘The Great Pixley Train Robbery’. 

The album retreats and slows into a mellow haze with ‘Estrella’ and ‘Absentee’, which see McCombs paddling in the waters of Latin influence and subtle, piano jazz chords. Album single and centrepiece ‘Sleeping Volcanoes’ uses a distinctive lyrical approach to emphasise the story being told, yet doesn’t deter from its subtlety. 

‘Rounder’ is an appropriate end to the album, the outro resonating with bluesy guitar and improvisational style organ, backed to a steady beat, with each instrument taking its turn to fade.

As a whole, McCombs’ record exudes a gracefulness, taking the listener through possible lyrical meanings, his songs sticking with you long after the album’s close.