Just like with any artist, Don Henley is a man of contradiction. On his new album Cass County, this point is illustrated the strongest on the cuts “Train In The Distance” and “Where I Am Now.” On the first cut, Henley sings about the restlessness that he felt growing up in Texas and the yearning for something different. There’s almost a wistful bit of nostalgia – maybe wanting to revisit lost youth. Then, on the latter, there’s a sense of fulfillment that one did the right thing. Where is the ultimate truth? Maybe it’s a little of both – or maybe this reviewer is reading a little more into it.
As a whole, the music of Cass County reflects Henley in both past and present versions. Take a listen to “Waiting Tables,” and you will be reminded of some of The Eagles’ finer country-tinged moments. Then, he turns the musical page over on the intriguing “Too Much Pride,” which sounds like the perfect combination of old-school Country and Ray Charles R&B.
At the heart of the matter (!), Cass County reflects a nod back to Henley’s roots as a music fan. “Bramble Rose” is a strong piece of Americana that works well, and “Cost Of Living” – a collaboration with Merle Haggard – is utter brilliance about a man (or two men) looking back at life and the sacrifices made to get ahead. Speaking of legendary performers, his take on The Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming” with Dolly Parton has to be listened to at least a couple of times to fully understand how incredible it is. You might be imagining it the first time around. Trust me, it’s that good. He also turns in a stunning version of the classic “Too Far Gone,” which will impress, as well.
All in all, Cass County shows a man who is at one time looking back, looking forward, and doing both with a sense of accomplishment, yet wondering about the worth of it all. That feeling of contradiction makes for wonderful dramatic flair – and even more wonderful music!