9 Songs, 44 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Coming just six months after Wit’s End, it’s reasonable to approach Humor Risk as a response or companion piece to that prior album. Whatever dark clouds were following Cass McCombs during the creation of Wit’s End seem to have partially lifted, leaving him contemplating the power of levity as a self-preservation device. The lyrics, consistently witty and slyly humorous, remain self-referential but also open enough to let listeners relate to his stories of woe. The punchy rockers “Love Thine Enemy,” “Mystery Mail,” and the reverb-soaked “The Same Thing” share bitter life lessons in an upbeat way. But that’s not to say that Humor Risk is all sunny and bright. “To Every Man His Chimera” drags its feet like a funeral march, and “Robin Egg Blue” is a delicate, melancholy rumination set against a shimmering backdrop of sound. The final track, the strange and warbled “Mariah,” seems designed to leave listeners guessing; it also shows how good McCombs is at incorporating a wide range of songwriting influences. It’s this balance between light and dark that makes the album so appealing.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Coming just six months after Wit’s End, it’s reasonable to approach Humor Risk as a response or companion piece to that prior album. Whatever dark clouds were following Cass McCombs during the creation of Wit’s End seem to have partially lifted, leaving him contemplating the power of levity as a self-preservation device. The lyrics, consistently witty and slyly humorous, remain self-referential but also open enough to let listeners relate to his stories of woe. The punchy rockers “Love Thine Enemy,” “Mystery Mail,” and the reverb-soaked “The Same Thing” share bitter life lessons in an upbeat way. But that’s not to say that Humor Risk is all sunny and bright. “To Every Man His Chimera” drags its feet like a funeral march, and “Robin Egg Blue” is a delicate, melancholy rumination set against a shimmering backdrop of sound. The final track, the strange and warbled “Mariah,” seems designed to leave listeners guessing; it also shows how good McCombs is at incorporating a wide range of songwriting influences. It’s this balance between light and dark that makes the album so appealing.

TITLE TIME
3:56
5:44
6:12
5:21
3:41
7:50
4:27
3:55
3:42

About Cass McCombs

After bouncing around the country writing songs and honing his craft, singer/songwriter Cass McCombs' insightful and emotionally rich 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. 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 grooving accompaniment that dipped into psychedelia, reggae, baroque pop, and funk. It featured over a dozen guests, including fellow renegade songwriter Angel Olsen, guitar ace Blake Mills, and Stuart Bogie of Superhuman Happiness. ~ Tim Sendra

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