Steven Casper is a new name to Red Guitar Music but his discography goes back a decade so we would seem to be a little late to the party. His latest release ‘Snakes’ was produced by Ira Ingber (Bob Dylan / Van Dyke Parks) in Los Angeles and the mini album / EP does a fine job of showcasing his particular brand of Americana which incorporates influences that range from Classic Rock to Country with a dash of Tex-Mex thrown in for good measure.
The album opens with a track to make Eastwood and Morricone proud as the instrumental Italian western homage ‘For A Few Dollars Less’ brings to mind images of rolling tumbleweed and the sound of a mournful church bell ushers in lashings of twangy guitar. ‘Driving Fast’ kicks things into a higher gear with an early ZZ Top approved riff that works well as a solid platform to showcase some fine interplay between guitarist John Groover McDuffie and the organ of Carl Byron. The band is rounded out by the rhythm section of bassist Herb Deitelbaum and drummer Jay Nowac. I have to say these guys are all really great and I’d imagine a live show would be a very cool experience.
Nowac and Deitelbaum really step up to the plate for ‘Restless Heart’ which again showcases the melodic guitar lines of McDuffie. The excellent ‘She’s Bad’ has a decidedly Dylanesque vocal from Casper, terrific backing vocals from Charity McCrary and Linda McCrary Fisher, tasteful organ smudges and a neat McDuffie solo. ‘Maria’ takes Casper and his band just a little south of the border with a nod to Los Lobos, or going further back Marty Robbins, while album closer ‘Slow Dancing’ features a lovely harmony vocal courtesy of Sharon Bautista. The album also has a seventh bonus track as the band rework ‘Driving Fast’ into a more acoustic arrangement which allows Byron to switch to accordion and it works really well.
It maybe only seven tracks and twenty five minutes long but Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst delivers a high quality set of tunes with some really great playing especially when McDuffie and Byron are given room to stretch out, which I’m pleased to say happens frequently.