In the world of American Idol, Casey James will not only always be known as the guy Kara Dioguardi asked to remove his shirt during auditions, but also probably one of the best musicians the contest has ever seen.
Armed with his guitar, Casey wowed America not only with his bluesy voice but his ability to shred the axe. Every week he got better as the competition moved towards the finals before finally being eliminated just before the finals. Lee DeWyze would eventually win that year, but it was his runner-up, Crystal, and Casey that most people were waiting to hear from.
Fast forward two years and fans were starting to wonder if we would ever get an album from him. Lee and Crystal released albums in late 2010, but no other contestant from that season has really been heard from on the mainstream music stage. While you can find YouTube videos of some of the others floating around, there hasn’t been much else to come from Season 9.
By the summer of 2011, Casey began to show up again talking about a new album that was forthcoming and showcasing a few songs here and there for television shows and Internet sessions. It all comes to a head on March 20th as Casey releases his self-titled debut .
Casey was known mostly for his bluesy-style of guitar and I fully expected to hear more in that direction when I put this album on for the first time, but when "The Good Life" kicked off the album, I was a bit surprised by the country tone of the song. That said, the song rocks and is an excellent way to start the album with a nice mix of great guitar and Casey's amazing vocals. The song has a nice country feel to it and really kicks you into high gear from the start.
“Crying on a Suitcase” follows and is another great tune but it has too many layers panned to one side that when listening with headphones it gets a little distracting to the listener. It is probably just a nit pick by me though since you wouldn’t notice if you were listening over a set of speakers on your home audio system.
Lead single “Let's Don't Call it a Night” is another demonstration of his strengths as a guitarist and his vocals are very reminiscent of blues-rocker Johnny Lang. This was a solid choice for the first single of the album and find it to be a good tune (and you can check out the video below).
Speaking of bluesy guitar, “Drive” kills with a kicking blues riff infused with a country vocal. I love the resonator guitar, giving this a solid Southern rock feel instead of straight country. “Love the Way You Love Me” is up next and when the song started, I got that Clapton vibe. However, once the vocals kicked in it became more of a country feel with a great vocal melody of the chorus is fantastic.
“Undone” really showcases Casey not only as a songwriter, but as a vocalist. It is a solid mid-tempo ballad. The song starts off with a nice Edwin McCain vibe infused with Tim McGraw. “So Sweet” is a very commercial song. I like the chord progression in the verses because it wasn't what I would have thought of, but it totally works.
“She's Money” is blues all the way and this is what I envisioned he would do all along along. There are some country sounds mixed in with a solid Black Crowes-like guitar riff, but it is definitely more blues. Easily another favorite, and I love the false end and the jam that ends the song.
With the intro and vocals in “Tough Love” all I can think of is Bon Jovi in his “Blaze of Glory” days. From the chords, melody, all the way to how the song is structured, this song is pure Western rock song and I love it.
“Workin' On It” hits hard from the start and keeps driving. This is a southern rock song that is very bluesy with a nice touch of twang. “Miss Your Fire” brings us right back to a country infused Edwin sound. This is probably my favorite song on the album and is co-written by Amee Mayo who has had many hit songs and starred as a judge on the first season of Can You Duet.
In all honesty, I didn’t know how country music would sound on Casey James, but he pulls it off beautifully by mixing in some southern rock into his country songs. Casey did something that many of the other Idol contestants weren’t really given the chance to do during the recording of their albums, he played his guitar. Casey can really wail on that thing and does a great job here. Highlights of the album are “Miss Your Fire”, “She’s Money”, “Tough Love” and of course “Let’s Don’t Call It A Night”. In my opinion, this is probably one of the strongest debut albums of a non-winner from an American Idol contestant. There really isn’t a bad song on it, and it is well worth spending the money on this album.