by Frank Gutch Jr.
First thing I did when Steven Casper's new album (Sometimes Jesse James) came through the door was dive through stacks of CDs looking for the one Casper album I knew--- Topanga Ranch Motel. I remember being quite taken by it when I reviewed it in 2008, the four songs getting better and better as I listened. I was surprised, though, because I remember less of a crunch than I heard when I played it after finding it. I remember more of a country rock leaning than there is. I checked the review--- nope, I heard crunch. Here is what I wrote:

"Angst ain't the half of it. These cowboys are dipped in everything from cowpies to cowabunga and have a country edge, but they don't stop there. Toss in a bit of Foghat, Motown (that's right--- Motown!), San Francisco (the early 70s, which you can credit to violinist-with-angst Ross Levinson) and a whole lot of South cushioned (thankfully) by the less-than-Van-Zant voice of Casper (in this case, less really is more and haven't we all heard enough of those lame Southern Rock clones anyway?). But let us be honest here, the South is not the key anyway. It is the mix."

That was 2008, mind you. Casper had one full album before and has one album and three mini-LPs (or Maxi-EPs) after. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge and a lot of time has passed. So I was not surprised to find a different sound and direction.

Let's call it smoother and more mainstream. “Down” kicks it off and while having that Bo Diddley rhythm, it relies more on a lighter beat and smooth vocals--- a great upbeat opener which gives way to the slow, flowing ballad, “The Best Days of Our Lives” (with topnotch pedal steel work by John Groover McDuffie). A step aside to cover Ryan Adams' “My Wrecking Ball” and they are right back in the groove with “They Call It Love”, electric piano and slide guitar laying the base for Casper's slightly bluesy voice (the guitar solo is short and sweet too). “Born To Lose Blues” is more a rocking shuffle than the blues (Carl Byron steps up with some excellent but all too short electric piano here too) and sets up the ender, “Mi Sueno, Mi Dolor” which straddles the Mexican border, instrumental-wise, and does a fine job of it.

Now, I've heard most of what Casper has doled out, though I did miss the first album (a Casper album titled Cowboy Angst) and 2016's I Feel Like I Got Snakes In My Head, and I confess to beginning to looking forward to anything he does. The man writes impressive songs and gets better with each outing. Add to that the fact that his band is first-rate and you have an automatic.

Now, Casper ain't no fool. He's set up a bit of streaming on his site and you can access it and listen to the new music with a simple click. Just follow the link...

Do it.  It's good stuff.