Two years after his American Idol debut, Casey James has finally released his first album, a self-titled effort that will please both his fans, and those who don’t know him yet. The ninth-season alumnus took his time crafting the rock and blues-influenced country album, and that patience shows.
Casey James is an enjoyable blend of upbeat, contemporary country tunes, and love songs that are likely to drive his female fans wild. The more you listen to this album, the more you like it. Although James might not yet be churning out number one hits, there’s very little to dislike about his first project.
The debut single, “Let’s Don’t Call It A Night”, is already climbing the charts, and it’s easy to see why. Combining a groovy guitar riff, a strong bass line, and James’ sweet but insistent voice, there must be thousands of women aching to say yes to his suggestion. Co-written by James, Brice Long, and Terry McBride, he makes the song his own with his soulful vocals and excellent guitar work.
“Love The Way You Miss Me” is a great love song from the same trio. The lyrics have James talking on the phone to his lover, telling her how much he misses her. Listening to James’ pitch-perfect singing, you can imagine him seated with his guitar, holding an intimate concert with a few dozen totally enthralled fans. The song makes you want to close your eyes and hold the one you love close for a few minutes in appreciation.
A potential sleeper hit is the second song on the album, “Crying On A Suitcase”, which another reviewer likened to “listening to the last five minutes of a romantic comedy.” I wasn’t initially taken with the song, but out of nowhere found myself humming the hook two days later. This one will grow on you, and it’s James’ singing that makes it soar. Watch for this one to take off if it’s released as a single.
The same unfortunately can’t be said for the lead song, “The Good Life”. While James was presumably aiming for an easygoing and cheerful song, it ends up sounding flat and trite, with awkward lyrics and an imperfect melody.
He makes up for that miss, though, with “Drive”, a vocally simpler but very satisfying song about his love of, you guessed it, driving. You can hear the mischievous grin in James’ voice as he revs this one up. Listen to this in something with four wheels and a big growly engine, like it ought to be, and between the bluegrass-influenced instrumentals and James’ enthusiasm, you’ll be toe-tapping that lead foot right into a speeding ticket. The song is so catchy, though, you’ll still be singing along as you’re getting written up.
Another hit will be “Workin’ On It”, a worthy entry into the sub-genre of male country artists working on self-improvement, joining songs like Jake Owen’s “Startin’ With Me” and Justin Moore’s ”How I Got To Be This Way”. This song is more upbeat than either of those, and has a quick, workmanlike tempo. The vocals occasionally get overshadowed by the powerful drums and confident electric guitar, but this is a very catchy song that begs to be sung along with.
The Fort Worth, Texas native co-wrote nine of the 11 songs on this album. The two he wasn’t involved in, “Workin’ On It” and “Crying On A Suitcase”, are two of the best, but you can expect that more experience will improve his songwriting skills. He’s already a great singer and a respected guitarist, both of which shine through on this album.
Love songs “Undone”, “So Sweet”, and “She’s Money” are all fairly generic. “Undone” is a typical country ballad about finding The One. “So Sweet” has a similar feel. Both of these songs will make you wonder whether you haven’t heard them before, filling radio airtime. “She’s Money” is a little more unique, but with some corny lyrics and questionable rhyming, it’s hard to take seriously as a love song. All the same, you’ll find yourself humming along and singing the title lyrics.
“Tough Love” is one of those determined, “prove ‘em wrong” songs about loving in the face of adversity and doubters. The strong instrumentals sound as determined as the singer. The feel is reminiscent of Jason Aldean, and there’s one line in the chorus that’s evocative of Jason Blaine’s “Rock In My Boot” – both favourable comparisons for this new artist.
The last song on the album is the lovelorn “Miss Your Fire”. With a soft guitar and spare percussion, James’ voice tells the story of a lonely, heartsick man, unable to sleep. It’s no “Need You Now” (Lady Antebellum), but the singer-songwriter still hits the mark with this one. The song has you imagining the music video as clearly as Toby Keith’s “Bullets In The Gun”. Either that, or sitting in the dark with a tumbler of whisky yourself, imagining what might have been.
After his debut single “Let’s Don’t Call It A Night”, James can also expect definite radio hits in “Drive” and “Workin’ On It”. The whole album, though, shows the care that was taken crafting his first release over the two years since his third-place finish on American Idol. Fans have much to look forward to from this up-and-comer.
Casey James was released on March 20, 2012.