“No one uses the phone anymore,” Cass McCombs said the morning of his taping at WAMU. After a miscommunication between him, his publicist and Bandwidth, the brilliant, nomadic singer/songwriter and his band had arrived in the wrong location. His rep said he’d been sending him emails about our scheduled session, but McCombs apparently hadn’t read them. No big surprise. This is the same artist who, not long ago, would only do interviews via handwritten letters.
Then there was another problem: Having played a show with tourmates Meat Puppets the night before, the band seemed exhausted. And grumpy. I wondered if the whole session would fall apart.
Once McCombs and Co. began to play, my worries faded. They paired an old folk song—the grim murder ballad “Omie Wise”—with “Angel Blood,” one of the best tunes from McCombs’ unforgettable 2013 LP, Big Wheel and Others. Both songs leapt from their instruments, McCombs’ vocal cords included. They were brightly and wonderfully played, without a trace of eye crust.
I’d like to know more about what McCombs had in mind when he wrote “Angel Blood,” a song that seems optimistic and romantic compared to many of his others. I’m not sure “happy” is what he was going for. Having waved goodbye to McCombs without grilling him on the subject, I could read the lyrics and interpret them on my own, as he has said listeners should. Or I could send a letter and cross my fingers for a response.
Watch the band’s stripped down take on “Angel Blood,” above,” and “Omie Wise” below.
Photos by Rhiannon Newman