Saturday, August 9, 2014

Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst: “Endless Sky” (2014) CD Review

Whenever I see John McDuffie’s name attached to a project, I get excited. There is something wonderful about his masterful, yet unostentatious playing, and his presence always adds a good deal to any musical endeavor. So I was anxious to hear Endless Sky, the new EP from Steven Casper And Cowboy Angst, for McDuffie plays slide guitar and pedal steel on it. Endless Sky is a really good collection of five songs, all written by Steven Casper, and featuring guest appearances by Charity McCrary and Linda McCrary Fisher, as well as by Ross “Big Daddy” Levinson.

Endless Sky opens with its title track, a wonderful song blending folk, country and pop elements. I love Steven Casper’s voice, and this song has a sort of relaxed, positive vibe. And I really like these lines: “Well, I like these folks, I like them fine/But I’ve always felt like I’m doing time.”

“Rattlesnake Road” has a cool, meaner bluesy vibe that is absolutely excellent. Steven Casper sings, “I need protection/That much I know/Because there is something evil/Down Rattlesnake Road.” I really dig the piano on this track. And the band is joined by Charity McCrary and Linda McCrary Fisher on backing vocals.

“In The Quiet Hours” is a slower tune, with a powerful beauty at moments. Something in the music calls to mind some early 1960s pop and rock. This line grabs me each time I listen to it: “In the quiet hours, I always reach, reach back for you.” There is some nice work by Carl Byron on organ.

The McCrarys join the group again on “River,” which opens with a pretty instrumental section. This song features an impressive vocal performance by Steven Casper. There is yearning and experience in his voice. This song really grabbed me. “Floating in the river/Safely wrapped in its cool embrace/Flow, river, flow/Take me far from this place.”  (At moments, this song reminds me just a bit of Life Of Riley, Riley Smith’s band.) John McDuffie’s work is just perfect. The song then concludes by returning to the opening instrumental part before fading out.

The EP ends with its biggest surprise, “The Last Dance Of The Year,” a delightful instrumental track dominated by accordion, with something of a New Orleans flavor. I absolutely love it. I think part of it is that I was taught how to waltz by a beautiful girl in the parking lot of a Dunkin' Donuts when I was a teenager, and that sound often takes me back to that happy and innocent time and frame of mind. Ross "Big Daddy" Levinson plays violin on this track, an excellent addition.

CD Track List

  1. Endless Sky
  2. Rattlesnake Road
  3. In The Quiet Hours
  4. River
  5. The Last Dance Of The Year 


Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst are Steven Casper on lead vocals and guitar; John Groover McDuffie on lead guitar, slide guitar, pedal steel and lap steel; Herb Deitelbaum on bass and backing vocals; Jay Nowac on drums; and Carl Byron on piano, accordion and Hammond B3 organ. Ira Ingber provides some additional work on guitar, percussion, and backing vocals. Ingber also produced the CD.

Endless Sky is scheduled to be released on Silent City Records on August 15, 2014 in Europe, and on September 23, 2014 in the United States.

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