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Moving On

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Album Review

Casey Donahew is that rare bird on the country charts these days: not only doesn't he hail from Nashville, he doesn't record there, and he doesn't work for a major label. All of his recordings (Moving On is his fourth overall and his first one to hit the numbers in Billboard) have been self-released; and other than Oklahoma, he hasn't played outside of his home state of Texas, either. But it doesn't matter. He landed himself in the country Top 30 with this one, and deservedly so. If there is any justice, contemporary country fans from all over the nation will get to hear it and discover what's been missing from the scene for a long time: authenticity. Moving On isn't slick by Nashville standards; in fact, to its jaded producers and engineers, it might sound downright raw and amateurish. Whatever. These songs are real, they are plainspoken and connect emotionally, their melodies rope the listener in and won't let go, and the sound feels like the band is playing in your living room, or at least in the neighborhood bar. Donahew and his longstanding, homegrown band know how to do that, they've played dollar beer halls all over the Lone Star state, and eventually developed enough of a following to sell out the biggest honky tonk in the world: Billy Bob's Texas where 3,000 music fans go wild every time they play a date there. Moving On is special, right from its opening track (also its first single), "Ramblin' Kind." One can feel the spirits of the Allman Brothers circa Brothers and Sisters, as well as the very best songs of writers like Jack Ingram, Pat Green, Todd Snider, and Robert Earl Keane before they let Nash Vegas suck the lifeblood out of their music. It's a loose, driving song that tells a story as it rocks its way through it with uncompressed electric guitars, fiddles, skittering snare drums, and a bassline shuffle that just won't quit. It's restless and it celebrates it; it revels in its rootlessness and aimlessness; it basically proclaims: "life, no matter what happens, is a party; why not enjoy it?" But Donahewis not just a frat boy's songwriter, there are some killer ballads here, as well; such as the moving "Breaks My Heart" and "Let Me Love You." He writes some terrific midtempo rockers such as "Burn This House Down"and "Broken," and the album closer "Moving On," that has a surprise tacked on the end that we won't spoil. This is contemporary country music that doesn't follow the rules — but then, it was made in Texas so that should be no surprise. That said, it's organic; its energy is immediate, and its hooks and bridges are deft and crafty. Donahew has no manufactured "image," he has no "persona" other than his own. Perhaps that's what listeners are connecting with; the authenticity in the songs, the organic sound of the recording, and the honesty of the man delivering them. Moving On should be the model of what contemporary country should sound like and not be the anomaly — if only Nashville had the guts to give it to them. Bravo.

Moving On, Casey Donahew Band
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