The brighter the tune, the bleaker the lyrics. “County Line” sounds like classic AM radio pop while McCombs plots his homecoming to a town where the “pain is never ending.” “The Lonely Doll” is a lithe little waltz about a girl “whose sadness wasn’t so small.” And “Buried Alive” putters along without a care while McCombs sings from the grave, quietly hissing at his “stinking corpse” neighbors.

Those three songs get “Wit’s End” off to a wonderful start, but the album’s remaining six cuts feel more labored, the words more inscrutable. That breezy-black balancing act requires a certain stamina that McCombs is still building.