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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Showing posts with label Casey James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Casey James. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2017

Casey James: Strip It Down - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Strip It Down, by Casey James and it's quite good. Opening with blues rocker, All I Need, Tommy MacDonald sets a Ray Manzarek style bass groove and Casey James on lead vocal and guitar takes the bait. His vocals are gritty and his guitar tone is warm and rich. Backed by Kevin McKendree on Wurlitzer, Tom Hambridge on drums and Ron McNelley on rhythm guitars, this is a band made in heaven. Two stepper, Bulletproof, has a great feel and Delbert McClinton joins on vocal giving it great style and screaming harp work gives it great edge. Hurt Me More has a real nice Texas lope where McKendree's dancing key work nicely compliments James' vocals and guitar riffs. Very nice. Pat Buchanan's harp work sets the tone for Latin flavored blues number, I Got To Go with a great sound. Hambridge's tight rhythm patterns drive this track, McKendree's B3 solo adds color and James guitar soloing and vocals are top notch. Little Willie John's, Need Your Love So Bad, is one of my definite favorites on the release showcasing James' vocal style and providing just that right forum for an expressive guitar solo. Excellent! With a taste of R&B, James steps forward on strong radio track, Different Kind Of Love with a solid melody, joined by Wendy Molten on backing vocals and potent horn work by the Muscle Shoals Horns. Very nice. McKendree opens Makin' Up, a potent rocker, with a rolling piano riff and they're off to the races. A definite foot stomper, and excellent piano/guitar exchange make this another of the favorite tracks on the release. Wrapping the release is Fight You For The Blues, a raw blues number with James on lead guitar and McNelley on slide giving the track real grit. McDonald's bass lines and McKendree's B3 work add to the tension and Hambridge's perfect accent drumming really kick it. Super closer.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Former "American Idol" Finalist Casey James Returns to His Texas Blues Roots on Latest Album, "Strip It Down"

Former “American Idol” Finalist Casey James Returns to His Texas Blues Roots on Latest Album,
Strip It Down

Singer/Guitarist’s Album Produced by Grammy-Winner Tom Hambridge & Features Guest Duet with
Delbert McClinton

NASHVILLE, TN – “All I want to do is play music,” says singer/guitarist, Casey James. “Stripping it back to just me making a record of music that I love was a huge stepping stone in my life.” Released June 9, Strip It Down, his new album produced by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge and featuring a guest duet with the legendary Delbert McClinton, does just that.

It’s titled Strip It Down because it’s exactly what Casey James did – shed off the layers of stylized artistic clothing that he’d been given in those other public ventures to find the real artist underneath, a guy with a convincing, smokey vocal quality and a burning, lyrical skill with a guitar.

Recorded at Sound Stage Studio and The Switchyard in Nashville, Strip It Down is a glorious return to the blues and roots music Casey James grew up on in his native Texas, and was a major influence in both his singing and guitar playing. “This music has been a lifetime in the making for me,” Casey says. “If you listen close enough, you can hear my heartbeat; the thing that keeps me alive. It’s all here. This album has been a healing process for me. To truly share my heart and passion with the world in an honest way is the best feeling I’ve ever felt.”

It’s not often that the blues gets summarized with a happy platitude, but when Casey James inserted the phrase, “Every sunrise on another day is another chance to smile,” into the song “Hard Times, Heartaches & Scars” on his new album, it was a hard-won truth. James is familiar to many as a finalist on season 9 of “American Idol,” and familiar to still more as a country artist who notched a Top 15 single with “Crying on a Suitcase.”

But in Strip It Down, James comes into his own by following a simple plan: being himself. Instead of following the expectations of TV producers or the game plan of a well-oiled record company, James collected 13 songs he’d written or co-written (plus a soulful take on Little Willie’s John’s “Need Your Love So Bad”), holed up in a Nashville studio with a trim, crackerjack band and hammered out the bulk of the album in a scant four days.

“There are no tricks here; no auto-tune, no grid, no Midi adjustments,” he proclaims proudly. 

The music Casey loves is the blues. Between his shrewd playing and exuberant singing, the influences of guitar players Tab Benoit, Doyle Bramhall II and Freddie King are highly apparent in Strip It Down, which folds-in a variety of styles, all connected directly to that blues base. Casey announces his roots entry with the dramatic blues/rock of the opening track, “All I Need.” Then, Grammy-winner Delbert McClinton joins him on a raucous bit of Texas roadhouse swagger titled “Bulletproof.” From there, the album courses through the light country swing of “Stupid Crazy” (joined by Bonnie Bishop on vocals), the spacious old-school R&B of “Different Kind of Love,” and the gutbucket closer “Fight You for the Blues.”

Growing up in Cool, Texas, a dusty town 45 miles west of Fort Worth, his destiny was laid out for James at the age of 13, when he got his first guitar. It became a constant companion, a channel for his emotions, as the six strings lay easy in his hands.

“I got pretty proficient fairly quickly, but mostly because I couldn’t put it down,” James remembers. “I don’t ever remember a time where practice felt like practice.”

It was that natural. James formed a band and hit the Texas club circuit, a collection of venues just big enough that it can keep a musician going for years. The band was in such high demand that one year he played a staggering 364 days. Clearly, he was talented – and more than ready to work. He mixed a few originals in with cover songs, played a mean guitar and sang with conviction. But he was persuaded by a family member that a run on “American Idol” might put him on better financial ground.

“I was at the best place in my life,” he recalls. “I was gigging every day. But I was struggling to try and make enough money to make a real record. Had I not done ‘Idol,’ I probably would be still struggling, so I consider it a blessing.”

It also became a bit confusing. The contract required him to stop playing clubs from the time he auditioned until the season concluded roughly nine months later. The schedule frequently involved 20-hour work days secluded from the world he knew, and he bent a lot of directions stylistically to fit into the show’s format. The work paid off – he placed third that season (2010) and landed the record deal. It was a country contract, not entirely in alignment with his influences, but it overlapped enough that he took the deal.

The next four years were a whirlwind, as James threw himself into promotion, meeting radio programmers, writing with some of Nashville’s best composers and opening for the likes of Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson and Sugarland. He experienced surreal stardom, but that came with music that merely hinted at the real Casey James. When he got off the ride, he found himself in a different place than he’d started.

“You go from zero to hero overnight, and so people see you differently,” James says. “So the person I was died. That person no longer existed.”

If it was going to be possible to resurrect that person, he knew only one way to do it. So he wrote. He launched into that phase with no real plan, just a passion for self-expression.

“It started as, ‘Man, I just need to write. I need to be able to do this for my own sake,’” he says. “I needed to just write music for me, for the sake of writing something that I enjoy singing and playing.”

The soulful “Supernatural,” the breezy ballad “Stupid Crazy” and the honking “I Got to Go” all came early in the process. He wrote them on his own, and he realized the time he’d invested in Music City had brought him to another level in his craft. James subsequently booked a series of writing appointments with some of Nashville’s finest, including one with Brice Long and Terry McBride, co-writers of James’ first single, “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night.” At the end of their session, they recommended he do some writing with another friend who had a strong affinity for the blues, somebody named “Tom.”

James got an appointment with him, and was astounded to discover that “Tom” was Tom Hambridge, a drummer, songwriter, and producer whose work he’d long admired. Hambridge had a hand in albums by Buddy Guy, Foghat, Keb’ Mo,’ and Susan Tedeschi, and his grounding in the blues and roots music was spot-on for where James was headed.

In their first co-writing session, James and Hambridge penned a bristling acknowledgement of sufficiency, “All I Need.” Two weeks later, they reconvened and authored “Killin’ Myself,” a snarling rocker that loosely encapsulates the roughest emotions from James’ experience with the music business.

The two were so in sync that before that second writing appointment was over, Hambridge was already plotting out how best to produce James’ album. And he did. Hambridge enlisted guitarists Pat Buchanan and Rob McNelley to back James up on guitar, bass player Tommy McDonald, and keyboard player Kevin McKendree, and they captured Strip It All Down mostly live in the studio, James singing and playing with the band and nailing most of the songs in three takes or less.

James funded it all through a one-month Kickstarter campaign, asking his fans to invest in the next step on his musical journey. They came through in a big way, delivering more than double his original goal. It served as a reminder that even when his path had taken down difficult roads, he’d made a strong connection with an audience that understood his creative ambitions.

Strip It Down sounds distinctly different from the work he did in his previous recording deal. And it’s much more forceful than the artist America first saw on “Idol.” As foggy as those periods in his life became, they were important steps in Casey James defining himself – recognizing the music that brought him joy and accepting the talents that make him able to deliver it.

“I always thought of myself as a guitar player that can sing, but I realize now that that’s not the case – I feel as confident and comfortable with my vocals these days as I do with my playing,” he says. “My perception of who I am has changed.”

Strip It Down threatens to change America’s perception of him, too. The blues is all about struggle, and James endured a major one as he lost a piece of himself in the spotlight. The album helped him renew his original intentions – in essence, to find himself again. And he delivers it with a passion and experience that are required to play the blues with authority.

“For the longest time, I always played with my eyes closed because music is so personal to me that I felt like I was naked – I'm putting all of everything that I am in every note,” James reflects. “I don’t close my eyes so much anymore because I’ve become more comfortable with being naked, so to speak, in front of people. I became OK with opening my eyes and engaging with people and really experiencing that moment with them.”

It’s why Strip It Down is such an apt title. All the outer layers had to come off for James to rediscover what he has to offer; to rekindle his reason for being - and to use it as a means of connecting.

“If you were to give me two options – one to have a shot at being famous, but it might mean I never play music again, or the other, to play every single night at bars, I would immediately choose option B,” he says. “Because I want to play music.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Casey James Tour Schedule

Concert Schedule:

10/20 Boston, MA Ned Devine’s, Boston, MA, 8:00 PM.

10/22 Lakeside, CA Lakeside Rodeo Grounds, in Lakeside, CA, 3:00 PM.

10/26 Modesto, CA The Fat Cat Music House and Lounge in Modesto, CA, 6:0o PM.

10/28 Sacramento, CA DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento, CA, 9:00 PM.

11/14 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore at the NC Music Factory in Charlotte, NC, 8:00 PM.

11/15 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel, in Asheville, NC, 7:30 PM.

11/16 Chattanooga, TN The Chattanooga Billiards Club, in Chattanooga, TN, 7:00 PM.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Think I'm Drowning On Dry Land - Casey James

Casey Everett James (born May 31, 1982) is an American singer and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, who was the third-place finalist on the ninth season of American Idol.
Before American Idol, he played with his band, The Casey James Band, consisting of James, his brother, Bills Cole (bass), and Jacy McCann (drums). They recorded four songs, including the first song that James ever wrote, "Freezing," back in 2002.
James cites blues guitarist Doyle Bramhall II as a major musical influence and whom he would most like to perform with in his Idol Q&A. Another major influence is Stevie Ray Vaughan; James named Vaughn's In the Beginning (1992) as a formative album in his early years.

I got an album called “In the Beginning” and I learned every note on it, which was easier to do because it was early on in his career [it was recorded in 1980]. I learned all those notes and it opened me up to the blues. When you look what he was doing, a lot of it was covers, and then you go back and start listening to those guys -- the originals Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins -- those influences changed me, too.

Other influences cited in the article are southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pearl Jam.
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