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Cass McCombs - Heartmind (Album Review)

Friday, 19 August 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

With his latest release ‘Heartmind’, Cass McCombs is now 10 albums into a career that started in the late ‘90s. Quietly weathering the storms faced by any career musician, he has amassed a passionate fan base and rewarded them time and time again with work that cements his status as one of America's finest and most consistent songwriters.

Variety has become McCombs’ calling card, with his roaming and free-form approach to crafting songs incorporating all aspects of Americana, from dust bowl ditties to tales from the urban sprawl. ‘Heartmind’ is cut from the same cloth.

The freak folk of A Blue, Blue Band, sun cracked blues of Music Is Blue and soft-rock stylings of Belong To Heaven are all signposts McCombs has cruised past before, roof down, soaking up the country he has toured relentlessly.

But even when he returns to the same scenes over and over, an abiding strength of his writing has been in making the familiar sound unfamiliar. 

‘Heartmind’ is somewhat of a clean slate. On the psych-pop, Elon Musk-baiting New Earth McCombs sings: “Today is the day after the last day on Earth / It’s such a glad day / After a very bad day.” There is a giddy optimism to the track that finds him assured that once the bottom has been reached, there is only better to come. 

That same sentiments abound on ‘Heartmind’, reflected in McCombs’ often veiled lyrics that allow the listener to find their own questions and meanings. Is love really ever lost, or have we just forgotten where to look? Do the choices we make define and shackle us? Is there enough time left to become the people we want to be?

Musically, though, ‘Heartmind’ feels unburdened. An early morning fog, still waiting to be torn through by the rising sun, hangs over the eight tracks, allowing them to  merge into one another. It is an album to play on repeat, until the ethereal tone poem Unproud Warrior inhabits the same space as the enormity of the closing title track, despite being nowhere near one another in running order. 

‘Heartmind’ may not allow you to forget the bruises left by the past, but it reminds you that even after a collapse, there is the chance to rebuild.


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