Casey James was a fan favorite on “American Idol” season 9. His southern charm, raspy voice, and fantastic guitar playing chops made him a stand-out from the rest. He was a third-place finalist in the competition and signed a record deal with Sony Music Nashville. After what seemed like two long years, his debut album is finally here. Did Casey stick to his bluesy roots or take a more contemporary country route?
For the most part, the record is easily defined as country, with hints of rock here and there. “The Good Life,” “Let’s Don’t Call it a Night,” and “So Sweet” are radio-friendly and fit right into the contemporary country niche. Casey co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs on the album, but some of these lyrics are weak and generic (in particular, “Love the Way You Miss Me”). Ironically enough, two of the strongest tracks on the record are not written by Casey (“Crying on a Suitcase” and “Workin’ On It”). Still, he delivers emotion, intensity, and great vocals to these songs, whether or not he helped write them. “Drive” has a good sound going for Casey, with upbeat, alternative country flair. “Tough Love” features more southern rock than any of the tracks and is a highlight. “She’s Money” is another stand-out with its catchy chorus and melody. Besides co-writing, Casey lends his musicianship to the album, playing the electric, acoustic, and slide guitar and dobro.
There’s no question that Casey James is talented. Anyone who watched him on “American Idol” can see that. However, for fans who loved his bluesy guitar playing, this album may be disappointing. Whether or not Casey doesn’t have the creative freedom he wants is uncertain. He has been outspoken about his satisfaction with the record, so perhaps there aren’t any “behind-the-scenes” power struggles. Nonetheless, the over-production and lack of depth of the tracks keep this album from being great, in my opinion. Casey shines when he is in a more organic setting, such as playing live. Regardless, I’m a fan of Casey and hope he continues to grow and stay true to who he is as an artist.