With an acoustic guitar flourish suggesting a Tommy outtake and a snaky Mars Hotel groove, Cass McCombs steps into the great 20th century tradition of the train song, paying tribute to a railroad heist that actually occurred a century ago in Middle-of-Fucking-Nowhere, California. McCombs narrates it as a written confession by a man hoping for a clear conscience, if not redemption: “I swear before Notary,” he declares, “to make a clean breast/Of the whole thing,” before ripping into a snarling, swirling, multi-tracked guitar jam so tasty it could go another 10 miles without losing steam.
This is hardly new territory for McCombs, an indie-rock drifter weaned in the Bay Area on Dead shows, among other influences; he’s even sat in with Phil Lesh at his Terrapin Crossroads club in San Rafael. McCombs is no cheap nostalgia merchant, and is rooted far more in earthy post-punk than jam-bandwagoning. But dude’s quite a guitarist, and here’s hoping he stretches things on tour behind his forthcoming LP – it’s a doozy.