Album Review: All Night Party – Casey Donahew Band

Casey Donahew Band’s newest album – All Night Party – is strong.

As personal background I’ve been fortunate enough to see Casey Donahew Band at NYC’s Texas Independence Day concert the past couple of years and they’ve been awesome. They – and Randy Rogers Band, who is also strong in concert – have stolen the show with the energy and enthusiasm of their performances.

This album seems to mark a bit of shift in CDB’s approach to more of a mainstream sound,┬ábut not a shift that is wholly unwelcome, or maybe if unwelcome is the wrong word, not begrudged and definitely not disappointing. Taken together the album features a diverse blend of party songs and cowboy tunes that showcase themes of love, raisin’ hell and nostalgia, featuring the lyrical originality that for me makes CDB a true standout. This is a Texas country album – and a very good one.

Kiss Me is a song that I could see receiving significant radio play and hitting the Billboard charts. Aside from the Keith Urbanesque intro, this song strikes a great balance of vintage CDB emotion and realness. The lyrics are not overwhelmingly original but the sincerity of the delivery and the intensity of the build up, starting with the bridge into the first chorus and particularly through the second chorus, make this a great song.

Country Song has a catchy chorus with wonderful lyrics that the listener can empathize with, in general and with reference to CDB in particular, along with a nice blend of nostalgia and rowdiness. Each metaphor that CDB employs seems better than the next, “beat up truck on an old dirt road”, “that first kiss when you’re holding on tight/ when two boys love one girl and you know they’re gonna fight”, “high school rebel pretending that he’s strong” in each stanza piling one on top of the other lending credence to the increasingly impassioned chorus where we see CDB performing on stage. Just like a good country song, the metaphors throughout this song, including where we see CDB performing on a stage too small, are imbued with emotional complexity and originality.

College Years is a bit of an empty song in my book – the generic, cliche lyrics fail to summon the nostalgia I think the song intends to evoke to hearken back to college and the inclusion of Love and Theft doesn’t add anything. Kip Moore is fine singer and songwriter, but his name popped into my head in an unflattering capacity when listening to this song, and I was surprised at the coincidence but not the fact of seeing his name on the songwriting credits.

What Cowboys Do is the album’s first cowboy song, a low-tempo ballad that, while not a feature of the album is certainly a solid song, the lyrics and emotion offset well by what sounds like an electric violin, in particular with lyrics like “I’m strong as a freight train and just as steady” allowing Donahew to showcase the kind of smooth, strong vocals that make him a great singer of not only upbeat Texas country rock songs but also emotional ballads.

The album features a number of party songs, including Feels This Right and Going Down Tonight, both upbeat, fun, “I’m not trying to live a love song tonight” kinds of songs. These songs incorporate themes that are prevalent in today’s bro-country movement, but in stark contrast to most bro-country songs when Donahew sings lines like “I like trucks and I love beer”, “I’m looking for a bonfire and some pasture land”, “I’m pouring moonshine shots into Dixie cups”, “I lost my keys and can’t find my phone/ everybody’s passed out so I party alone” we can hop on board because these lines are delivered in an original context that pairs nicely with the simplicity of these lyrics and a sincerity that makes the lyrics believable. Although I don’t think these songs are the best on the album, the blend of popular bro-country themes, Hank Jr. rowdiness and CDB originality make me confident that CDB will find larger commercial success.

That’s Why We Ride, the first song I’d heard off the new album, is a catchy cowboy tune that takes me right back to CDB gold like Stockyards. The lyrics and subject matter of this song perfectly match the tempo, highlighted by some restrained electric guitar that I can see being broken out into its fully glory in concert, creating a powerful, fun and passionate song that just makes me want to get out onto the highway and throw the hammer down. For me this song comes in at #2 on this album between #1 Country Song and #3 White Trash Bay.

Like College Years, I was similarly not surprised to see That Got The Girl was not a Casey Donahew song, the island-inspired sound, easy chorus and simplistic lyrics sound more similar to Kenny Chesney’s more recent albums than a CDB original, but in contrast to College Years this made for fine listening.

Josie Escalido – a nice old timey feel, Texican-inspired song, with thoughtful lyrics

White Trash Bay is wonderfully CDB, very much in the mold of White Trash Story, White Trash Story – II, Double-Wide Dream, etc. This song is infused with the CDB sense of fun and humor that shines through so strongly in Donahew’s original lyrics. It’s exactly songs like this that serve as a reminder – there are only a handful of artists on the same level as CDB in terms of creativity. This feel-good song will enter the CDB pantheon of great white trash-themed songs.

 

Reasons to Love Country

There are so many reasons to love country music, why I love country music. In New York City, there might not be quite as many of us as in other parts of these United States, and at least in my experience folks who haven’t yet hopped on the country train are always asking why.

Many posts to follow on the many reasons to love country, but let’s start with the basics. Country music is about life – love, hard times, raisin’ hell. And unlike so many TV shows, movies, music genres and people, it’s the absence of irony, of sarcasm, of condescension, of pretension that makes country music wonderful. It’s alright to sing about having a beer – just because it’s cold or because it’s a Friday night. It’s OK to sing about a date with a girl – just because you’ve had a crush on her for years. Songs aren’t about being cool – they are about being happy, or about not being happy if that’s how it works out. Without any cover of sarcasm, they’re about experiencing life.