Album Reviews: Cass McCombs, Kinloch Nelson, Galactic, Lucky Daye, and Jessica Pratt

Jessica Pratt casts a spell with Quiet Signs.  Image: A. Dola Borani Jessica Pratt casts a spell with Quiet Signs. Image: A. Dola Borani

Cass McCombs

Tip of the Sphere (ANTI-)

The opener of Tip of the Sphere is an interesting mongrel—half Irish folk mantra, half space rock, and ending with three minutes of Jerry-Garcia-circa-1972 wah guitar. All of which sort of sets the tone for Cass McCombs’ latest. There’s easy loping folk on “Absentee” and tabla and David Crosby vibes on “Real Life,” while “Sleeping Volcanoes” would sound like a single if it weren’t for the droning intro and the subject matter (Armageddon). Dusty California vibes abound on Tip of the Sphere, as do light-boogie codas featuring tasty pedal steel licks by Dan lead [sic]. ****

Kinloch Nelson

Partly on Time: Recordings 1968-1970 (Tompkins Square)

Kinloch Nelson, who trained in jazz and classical guitar at the esteemed Eastman School, has had a steady career as a pedagogue, penning guitar instructionals and teaching in and near his native Rochester. But as a high school student in the summer of 1968, Nelson visited his older sister at Dartmouth College and met Dave Graves of student station WDCR. Nelson, who had been composing solo and duo guitar pieces with childhood friend Carter Redd, convinced Graves to commandeer WDCR’s production equipment and help him and Redd make some recordings. Here they are, and though virtuosic, they’re unlike the mathematical workouts of Kottke or the mutated ragtime of Duck Baker (who apparently hipped Tompkins Square to these recordings). They’re sweet and lyrical (“Solitudes”); trancey (“The Eyes of Fair Molly”), and lightly swinging (“Coming Down From the Ceiling,” which sounds like it hatched Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”). Catch Kinloch Nelson April 12 at Rhizome in D.C. with Max Ochs, a co-conspirator of John Fahey’s back in the day. ****1/2


Already Ready Already (Tchoup-zilla)

Chevy Chase transplants Jeff Raines and Robert Mercurio have never been shy about exploring the musical heritage of their adopted New Orleans, and at its best, Galactic has conjured something of the Meters’ funk and the city’s general party-to-the-skies ethos. On Already Ready Already, guests Princess Shaw, Erica Falls, and Boyfriend bring some vocal heat, and instrumentals “Goose Grease” and “Ready Already” sound ready to cook under the stage lights. But overall the proceedings feel a bit forced, a street revel turned into a drinking game. **1/2

Lucky Daye


With his November EP’s lead single “Roll Some Mo” still climbing the charts, New Orleans native Lucky Daye follows up with this, the second installment of a full-length slated to come out later this year. An odd gambit, but in the meantime it’s nice to have these slinky, efflorescent R&B jams with influences from Shuggie Otis to Prince to Frank Ocean. Daye’s profane analyses of sexual politics might disqualify II from the family minivan, but Mom and Dad’ll still dig it. ****

Jessica Pratt

Quiet Signs
(Mexican Summer)

After three albums, I can firmly assert that I find Jessica Pratt kind of miraculous. Her songs go like this: she plays some simple acoustic guitar, strumming chords or picking arpeggios. She may or may not add a faint layer of something—organ, flute, a string instrument. On top of this minimal ground, she lays a lightly dancing, echoey vocal line. It’s a deceptively simple formula, but every one of her songs casts a gauzy spell, transfixing and transporting. Is it the inventive “Forever Changes” chords? Is it her hushed wistful-dryad voice? Is she a witch? The mystery continues. *****

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