CD reviews: Casey Shea, Will Hastings, Rita Wilson
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
In Your Head/Family
I may just have to make the drive to Awendaw Green (north of Mount Pleasant) on Wednesday as one of the featured artists will be Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Casey Shea.
Even if you’ve never bought one of Shea’s albums, you might still be familiar with his music thanks to its inclusion on television shows such as “One Tree Hill.”
“In Your Head” is an ambitious collection of songs with a core sound that reminds the listener of the new wave rock movement of the early 1980s.
That isn’t to say that the music here is soaked in synthesizers; quite the contrary. But there are definite similarities to ’80s acts such as Blondie and Dave Edmunds here, especially on the most catchy selections on the album: the rocking “Can’t Get Enough,” the ambitious “Chelsea” and the pleasant title track.
Shea, who played in bands in Tallahassee, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn., before settling in New York, definitely has a good ear for a catchy hook, and yet has the know-how to keep those hooks from getting too over the top.
It’s one thing to hit someone over the head with a current and insistent song that soon fades from memory. That’s not Shea’s style. Instead Shea has crafted a solid album’s worth of music that makes for a pleasant listening experience.
Key Tracks: “In Your Head,” “Can’t Get Enough,” “Chelsea”
My Human Condition/Independent
One of the great things about modern recording technology is that a musician can record his or her music just about anywhere.
In the case of Will Hastings, his new EP, “My Human Condition,” was recorded inside a storage unit on Line Street. Those recordings were later mastered and engineered by Ryan Patrick Zimmerman, but when you listen to the five songs on the EP, you can still hear the unpolished and rough edges in each track. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The funk/blues sound of “Souls to Burn,” the guitar-driven rock sound of “The Brakes” and the catchy Elvis-pop goodness of “Earlybird” all sound wonderfully worn, much like a dollar bill that has been used until the paper is soft and faded.
Hastings definitely has a great ear for a melody, and his vocals are wonderfully overemphasized, much like Jack White’s.
The standout track on the EP has to be “Bad, Not Good,” which is reminiscent of Elvis Costello and The White Stripes, although without the feedback-leaden guitar that so often punctuates the latter of those two acts.
While Hastings sang and played guitar on the EP, he enlisted the help of Zimmerman on drums, as well as William Moore (Weigh Station) on bass, Ross Bogan (Long Miles) on keys and Young-Mi Feldsott (Old You) on backing vocals.
By releasing just five songs, Hastings has made sure that there is no filler here, and the resulting collection of songs makes for a brief yet satisfying listen.
Key Tracks: “Souls to Burn,” “Earlybird,” “Bad, Not Good”
Before we go any further, yes, that is indeed the same Rita Wilson who is married to actor Tom Hanks.
“Oh great,” you’re probably saying, “another vanity project from the spouse of one of Hollywood’s golden boys.”
While there have been more than a few of those ill-fated albums over the years, it appears that this time the singer actually has the pipes to back up the expectations, or to shatter them, depending on how you’re looking at the situation.
Simply put, Wilson has a lovely singing voice, hushed yet powerful, and falling somewhere between the triangulation of Karen Carpenter, Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crow. Wilson originally wanted to be a singer back in the ’60s and ’70s, but eventually went with acting instead.
The songs on “AM/FM” are all covers, but the selected songs are great ones, including “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Angel of the Morning” and “Wichita Lineman.”
Wilson’s treatment of each song is such that she is able to make the tune her own without radically altering the song’s original sound. It’s a show of restraint and respect that keeps the whole thing classy.
Given the quality of Wilson’s voice, one has to wonder what might have happened had Wilson followed the music muse rather than the acting one back in her earlier days. Whatever the case, she’s definitely shown us what she can do, and hopefully there will be more.
Key Tracks: “Come See About Me,” “Wichita Lineman,” “River”