Opening with ‘Oh Father’ Casey’s arresting but ultimately disappointing album goes big on page one. Melancholic lyricism, swooping guitar solos over a frame of a handpicked acoustic guitar. It’s all loud, quiet, loud, quiet and we have been here before, many times but this is done with a chutzpah that somehow overcomes the AOR template until the My Chemical Romance meets Meatloaf ending which is just a bit too much.
‘Mariana’ dials it all in a bit and all the better for it. A slow burn grower with a sweet fiddle and organ supporting a simple heartbreak song. Understated both in chorus and execution. Each track on the album is preceded by random noise samples – could be speech or crowd noise. This does nothing for the overall aesthetic, just saying. ‘Saratoga’ is a jaunty clap along, ‘Love Like a Landslide’ is Isbell – lite and barely that, unfortunately more like ‘Love Like A Small Movement of Topsoil’, ‘Find My Way’ starts acapella and then descends into a standard new country song – quiet vocals, big chorus with a sharp guitar ripping up the edges. It’s okay for what it is but the The Eagles were doing this 45 years ago and better.
As the album progresses there are moments that make the listener pay attention – the harmonies at the start of ‘Find My Way’, the beautifully delicate opening ‘Songbird’ – all restraint and empathy which is unfortunately undermined by the overblown approach to the end of the song ( see track 1), ‘Lost in the Valley’ starts in a similar vein but also loses out to Casey’s desire to throw the kitchen sink at something to signify high emotion. There is a good songwriter here with some obvious musical chops but he needs someone to give him a good shake and say less is often very much more. And perhaps someone has already done that because the final track ‘Once Like You’ somehow feels more authenticate and soulful – just a voice and guitar after all the bombast of before.
Maybe next time….