Cedarsmoke – ‘The Great & The Terrible’


The Great & The Terrible is the stirring sophomore album from Cedarsmoke, whose admiration for the melodic storytelling of classic folk-rock emanates throughout the satiating release, whose range includes ardent rockers and piano-driven ballads alike.

Hailing from Meanjin/Brisbane, Cedarsmoke’s stellar songwriting takes inspiration from ’70s folk-rock, infusing pedal steel, harmonica, and organs within the stirring arsenal. Their no-frills sound achieves an inviting, melodic impact throughout The Great & The Terrible, which is also inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Frontman and singer/songwriter Jon Cloumassis calls the release “an exploration of change in all its forms and manifestations,” noting how it “captures the essence of characters in flux.”

The opening “Real” builds from enticing balladry into rousing rock energy, using Bruce’s “Thunder Road” as its melodic inspiration. This inviting familiarity proves warming and nostalgic, particularly as the harmonica closes out with a heartfelt homage. The subsequent “Ready To Go” continues the Springsteen-esque flair, lyrically warning of corrupt politicians and emphasizing the true feelings of the heart — “I can’t live too fast, I always lose control.”

The beautiful, frolicking folk production on “Amy at 13” complements an introspective theme, exploring a father-daughter relationship while highlighting mental health struggles. A father describes lovingly the apple of his eye, even as his daughter exudes anger and personal struggle; the genuine feeling of love and concern is relayed amidst the gorgeous guitar work and underlying organs. “It’s gonna take some time ’til you’re alright,” the vocals let out as bright organs work in, conveying concern though also a hopeful look toward recovery.

Personal, poignant approaches continue on “The Way We Once Were,” which weaves a twangy country-laden duet amidst retrospective contemplations on divorce and breaking up. “After all the time we put in,” the vocals sigh, as more forceful piano pulses join the guitar twangs. The title-touting punctuation plays with yearning qualities, reflecting the somberness of divorce, and its symbolic representation of seemingly finalized decay. “Will I still long for you?” is asked even as the years passed, showing the tortured sense of contemplation that still lingers.

The two-part “Emerald City” closes this delightful album with satiating form; the epilogue is particularly touching in its playful piano and twangy guitar intertwining. The Great & The Terrible is a captivating showcase in songwriting from Cedarsmoke, tugging at the heart with its delicately impactful exploration of issues like mental health and divorce, along with rousing rockers that embrace a melodic immediacy.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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