Review of “Casey James”

By Shari Geller

The opening track of “Casey James” bursts out of the gate with an anthemic salute to happiness.  “The Good Life” is sung by a man content with the little things life has to offer and sure that he’s on the right track. “No doubt I’m right where I belong, No part of this road feels wrong,” Casey sings in the song’s catchy chorus.  It is a fitting launch to the recording career of an artist who seems comfortable and happy with where he is right now.  And it’s easy to see why.  Casey James has crafted an impressive debut that brings together his unique blend of blues, rock, country, and soul into a sound that is distinctly his own.

Writing nine of the album’s eleven tracks and acting as co-producer (along with Chris Lindsey) on the whole album, the 29-year-old from Ft. Worth, Texas, gives himself nowhere to hide.  His imprint is everywhere on the album, from the bluesy touches he brings to the many guitars he plays to the unexpected choices he makes to have an album that strives to avoid clichés and easy stereotypes.  Just when you think you have Casey pegged, he shows you another musical side to him.

The second track, “Crying on a Suitcase,” is one of the two not penned by Casey.  He infuses the song with urgency, the little country cry in his smooth vocals conveying the regret of someone about to let something good slip through their fingers.  He makes his guitar sing, a plaintive wail that matches the passion behind the vocals.

The first single off the album, “Let’s Don’t Call it a Night” seems at first more polished than the first two songs, but then his sexy phrasing and bluesy guitar whine take the smartly-produced song and add a little dirt and heat to it.  It has an undeniable hook and grabs you from the first note of the guitar to the last tasty lick.

After getting all sultry, Casey kicks it up to, if you pardon the pun, overdrive with the infectious and propulsive “Drive.”  A new swamp-rock, mussed-up bluesy guitar riff introduces a more countrified version of the song than many of us are used to from his live performances of the song over the past year.  It is now more understandable why Casey’s most often-played cover is the bayou classic “Polk Salad Annie” as there is definitely some Louisiana in that Texas boy’s blood.  This “Drive” sounds like it should be sung around a camp fire, with everyone on instruments they fashioned from scraps in their backyards, a raw and honest song.

Casey moves from the rollicking, rough-edged “Drive” to the sweet, graceful “Love the Way You Miss Me,” a song about longing and loving that has really resonated with those who experience separation from the ones they love.  Casey smoothes most of the country-twang out of this song, giving it potential crossover appeal.  His slightly raspy voice, bluesy guitar riffs and soulful flourishes at the end could make this song a sentimental standard.

Casey keeps it wistful with the unabashedly romantic “Undone.”  The song brings to mind Jackson Browne’s “These Days,” complete with David Lindley-esque lap steel guitar.  Casey’s southern twang is in full command of the yearning and deliverance of someone who has traveled far to be at a place of contentment at long last. It’s a heart-tugging song that is as much about the pain of the journey as about the relief of reaching the destination.  Casey’s voice is at its best here, when he lets go and taps into deep emotion.

The theme of mournfulness followed by salvation continues in the ultra-romantic “So Sweet.”  Since he came on the scene as a finalist on American Idol, there has been a question whether Casey is a singer who plays the guitar or a guitarist who sings.  Throughout the album, but particularly in this song, it’s a debate that can’t be answered.  His voice, a distinctive mix of silky and ragged, is on full display here – grabbing you by the heart and taking you on the rollercoaster ride that is love.  Yet the guitar conveys the pain and passion just as clearly as his voice does.  Together, they blend to make a powerfully intense love song.

Just when you’re wrung out from the three songs of love and yearning, Casey brings it back up-tempo with the bouncy “She’s Money.”  The song was hit with a heavy country stick and yet is reminiscent of another ‘70s artist, the Doobie Brothers.  It’s light and catchy and helps you recover from the beating your heart was taking, though it’s not really my cup of tea.   “Tough Love” is.  Gritty, sexy, hard-edged, this is more southern-rock than country and really packs a punch.  Casey’s voice rests in a slightly lower register and helps the Bon Jovi-meets-Tom Petty song deliver its strong, rough, cowboy vibe.

“Working on it” explodes like a runaway train.  The second song on the CD not written by Casey, it’s clear why he chose it.  It’s catchy, fun, with a great hook.  It’s one of the best produced songs on the album, showing off Casey’s guitar chops and his honey-soaked vocals, a full, rich, multi-layered song that you can keep on repeat for some time.  It’s full of sly humor and an upbeat message, a perfect bookend to the albums’ opening track.

But Casey takes the risk not to end the album on that happy, optimistic song, but instead closes with the wistful “Miss Your Fire.”  The musical equivalent of a plot twist, the happy guy from the rest of the album is gone.  His voice is almost a whisper, as he lists all the ways his life has changed now that his love has gone.  “This bed is freezing cold, I never felt so alone” he sings with longing and regret, his voice disillusioned and disheartened.  The song is a prayer, the instrumentation all languid and distant.   And the CD closes with you feeling blindsided by this sad turn of events.

This is a terrific debut, showcasing the depth and breadth of Casey’s musical talent and influences, with a range of songs that move from the briskly upbeat to the searingly painful without a stumble.  And, like any good piece of art, it makes you eager to know what’s next.

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About Shari

Creator and Administrator of The Casey James Blog.
This entry was posted in CD, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Review of “Casey James”

  1. Shari, you just never cease to amaze me. When Casey was asked if he’d ever write a book about himself, I immediately thought about your writing skills and how you would do him justice in the written word…..for someone who appreciates music the way you do, your review of Casey’s CD truly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Casey, for the CD and thank you, Shari, for bringing it to life.

  2. CANADIAN CASEYFAN says:

    This is such a great tribute to Casey James Shari, You have been there from the very start and it was your writings that brought me to appreciate this musician because I read everything you wrote and now the time has come for all of us Casey fans to rejoice in the final album that we waited for ever so patiently.
    Thanks to you and many other writers, Casey received a lot of support and we are going to keep supporting him! I did hear the country cry during the song ” Crying On A Suitcase” This is my favourite now but each and every one of his songs have come in as my favourites !
    Shari, you described Casey’s songs and voice and all his characteristics with such essence and precision embracing him with poetry and art.

  3. Sandy Lamboy says:

    Wow, Shari, incredible review. You have a gift for words. Wish I had my cd here so I could listen and compare notes. I know its going to be great!!!!! Guess i have to wait till next week(:

  4. Linda Jones says:

    DITTO to everything said above ! Great review ! I am so excited about the CD I can barely stay in my chair !

  5. Kathe says:

    Wow…..the review takes us through Casey’s album and truly captures the feeling each one inspires as you listen.. Love it and LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE all the songs I’ve heard him perform. On Monday night at midnight.. 12:00 am 3/20 I will be at Wal-Mart buying my first Casey James cd…. Then I should receive in the mail 4 more cds that I’ve pre-ordered. You can never have too many Casey James cds

    • Aunt Sherry says:

      I’ve checked with the Wal-Mart close to me and they don’t even know if they’re going to get it!!! Some other company handles that but I will be calling (again) the 20th!

  6. Aunt Sherry says:

    OMG Shari, you are amazing! Thanks to YOUR efforts, Casey’s fans were able to stay united while waiting for the cd and all the hoopla that goes with it. Appreciation just doesn’t seem a big enough word to convene the gratitude we all feel. Hope to be able to hug your neck one of these days!

  7. Aunt Sherry says:

    Oh, on the internet Billy Bob’s shows tickets still available…REALLY? Come on Texas – let’s blow it out!!!

  8. Cherrel Underwood says:

    Shari, what a beautifully-written track-by-track analysis of Casey’s CD!! Your knowledge and appreciation of music really focuses in on what is important in each song—lyrics, vocals and/or guitar mastery. I love your descriptive language—e.g., “…instrumentation all languid and distant” and “searingly painful.” As Casey would say, “You GET it!!” Thanks so much for this comprehensive and thoughtful review!! You are amazing—and we appreciate all that you do!! :))

  9. Best review I’ve read yet, Shari – honestly. I mean really, who better to give their take on the songs than you? You give such insight into his “musical soul.” You truly have a gift, both with words and with music. I completely agree with everything you’ve said about the songs I’ve heard… and this makes me giddy, longing for the songs I haven’t heard. I can honestly say that I have never been more excited – and more PROUD – for any artist, than I am waiting for this album.

  10. Linda R says:

    Shari, I have never read such an interesting and descriptive review. You have captured the essence of each track and I am completely tantalized and about ready to explode waiting to hear this long awaited debut album. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent with us.

  11. Patti (MsVerucas) says:

    Awesome review Shari, love your writing, I really enjoyed this! If I didn’t know who Casey was, it would make me want to listen to his music. 🙂

  12. Tracy Scott says:

    You definitely have a gift for writing Shari! Thank you so much for this review-I am looking forward to Caseys CD even more than I was already-didn’t think THAT was possible! Can’t wait to see other peoples reactions to the CD. How can they not love it? I am so excited for Casey and can’t thank him enough for sharing his “heart and soul” with us!

  13. MNPeach says:

    Wow, Shari. Thank you for this thoughtful and beautifully expressed review of the music. You made me think about different aspects to the songs that I hadn’t seen (heard). It really adds to my enjoyment of the music. You know, of course, that you are the perfect biographer for Casey when the right time comes.

  14. Megan says:

    Great review Shari! Very thorough and accurate depiction of his album, from what I’ve heard so far…love it. You have done so much…I admire you.

  15. Blueslane uk says:

    Amazing! Amazing! Review! Shari you are a brilliant writer!!

  16. Roni J says:

    The best review on Casey!!!!!! Shari you did a magnificient review. Can’t wait for that rock, bluesy, country sound of Casey’s album. Also agree with Aunt Sherry, I too am having problems with Walmart, they don’t seem to know too much. Have had contacts with Target and Best Buy, their adv ice is come in on the l9th. However we did pre-order on Amazon also. There will be no way that I will miss out on this, so everything seems to be cov ered. Aunt Sherry try these venues.

    Roni Jones

  17. CANADIAN CASEYFAN says:

    Shari, I can’t say enough about how much you’ve contributed to Casey James and his fan’s happiness. We owe you a lot for your determination and dedication and expertise on his career in music.Thank you so much!

  18. Janice P(capecodjanice) says:

    Casey and his music make the world a better place. It’s that simple.:)

  19. Karen says:

    Shari, I really enjoyed reading your review of Casey’s album! It’s true that you are a fantastic writer, as I felt like I was reading a story from beginning to end just like in a book! I am so excited about Casey’s album debut and I knew that it would be worth the wait, but this really seals it. can’t wait for the rest of the world to see what all of his fans have known all along. Thanks so much for the great review and everything else!

  20. JaniceP says:

    Who wouldn’t want to buy Casey’s Cd after that review, Shari; how eloquently stated!

  21. NYCJFan97 says:

    Wonderful review!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing it and for all your continued hard work to keep everyone up to day on all things Casey!!

  22. Shari, you are one amazing writer! I love everything you write! And your thoughts here is consistent with mine. Yes, I really enjoyed reading your review as ever. Sweet thanks for all you do! I admire you and your ability. Casey and Shari rocks! Way to go! 🙂
    Love from Latvia and Ireland….Inta and my little girl ( gd) Anna Marta.
    (btw, she is a big fan of Casey…I hope you watched and *like* hers “performance” 😉 on youtube )

  23. Pingback: Casey James ~ Weekly Recap Ending 3/17/2012 | The Casey James Blog

  24. Carman (coolcjfan) says:

    I purposefully waited till I had CD in hand and had listened all the way through before reading this review. I wanted to go in ‘unbiased’. 😉 You pretty much hit the nail on the head, Shari, and your descriptions are beautifully put. I definitely did not want the CD to be done when Miss Your Fire was over.

  25. Susan T. says:

    Thank you for your excellent, beautifully written review. Thank you also for everything that you do for Casey and his fans. What would we do without you?

    There is a great review today for Casey on the Roughstock website.

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