For most people Casey Rivers is a newcomer, indie artist but to people who’ve watched Nashville Star, they will remember him as the guy who was from the same town as Miranda Lambert. On the show people liked his charm but in the end he didn’t win the show (Chris Young did). With the notoriety of that show, one might have Rivers to have come out with an album in 2006. Instead of doing that, he went to work in and around Nashville writing songs. A couple of years later Casey has released his self-titled debut album to the world.
Leading off the 11-track album is “If I’d Known Better.” It is the first single released from the disc and it immediately showcases Rivers’ winning vocal ability. Written by Jesse Terry, JT Harding and Michael Logan, the song talks the craziness that happens when two young people fall in love the summer after high school graduation. It’s a jovial, slice-of-life song that talks about the hardships that people go through and given the current economic climate, the song is well-timed. The instrumental mix is behind Rivers’ voice but the steel guitar is not just a ‘secondary’ instrument here. Instead it serves as a ‘lead’ instrument except for the intro and outro. The slow-burning “If I Know My Woman” is an interesting song in that it showcases the strong, powerful voice that Casey has. It was written by him with Dan Bobbitt and Kerry Ford and is about the love he has for his wife. He knows her so well that he can guess her every move. It’s a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blake Shelton record.
“Tornadoes and Trailer Parks” is the kind of good-time, honky tonker that country music used to be full of. Written by the album’s producer Charlie Hutto and Matt Jenkins, the lyrics are actually pretty funny. It compares various things don’t mix and this line particularly made me laugh “we go together like oil and water, Gene Simmons and a preacher’s daughter…we think it’s love when we hook up but things start to fall apart, we go together like tornadoes and trailer parks.” It’s a fun song that undoubtedly will be a highlight of Casey’s live shows. With its contemporary arrangement, there’s no way that his update of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” should work as well as it does here. Whereas Crystal Shawanda turned the song into a bluesy track, Casey has arranged this song in a way that could probably get it massive airplay on radio. What this does is showcase the true versatility of the melody and lyric that Hank Williams wrote many years ago.
Casey goes straight to the smoky honky tonks with his self-written “Look at You, Lucky Me,” a song written for his wife. Another self-written track is the heartfelt ballad “When Mommas Cry.” The melody is similar to “She’ll Go On You” from Josh Turner but instead of being written from a parent’s perspective, the song is written from the child’s perspective. It’s probably a little ‘too sweet’ for some but what mom wouldn’t want to hear a song written about them and their relationship with their kids? Casey’s faith comes to the front in the second verse of the song and it really shines through on “Heaven’s Door” (a co-write with fellow Nashville Star alum Matt Mason) and a sterling, strongly sung rendition of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
With eleven strong performances, Casey Rivers and his producer Charlie Hutto have managed to create a contemporary album that sounds as good (or better) than anything that’s on mainstream country radio. It’s albums like this that prove that an artist doesn’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to craft a strong album. When you add in the nice artwork, Casey really has created himself a great product to sell at his live shows and to serve as a demo to possibly get him a label deal somewhere.