Producers: Don Henley & Stan Lynch
Review: Dave Leary
Cass County has been promoted as Don Henley’s country album. It’s not too surprising that Henley would make such a record. The early Eagles records had many songs that leaned more toward country in both songwriting and instrumentation. Named after the part of Texas where he grew up, this is Henley’s fifth solo album and first since 2000.
The deluxe edition contains 4 extra tracks. There is also a Target exclusive deluxe edition which has those 4 tracks plus 2 others. This is a review of the main 12 song album.
Henley brought in many special guests for this project. The opening song, a cover of Tift Merritt’s “Bramble Rose”, features both Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert. They each sing a verse and sound excellent. It would be interesting to hear Jagger tackle an album of country songs. The only other cover is the lovely duet with Dolly Parton, “When I Stop Dreaming” a 1955 hit for the Louvin Brothers.
Henley co-wrote the rest of the songs with his co-producer Stan Lynch (original drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). Steuart Smith, who essentially replaced Don Felder in the Eagles, plays guitar on almost every track and has a writing credit on 3 songs.
“The Cost of Living” is a duet with Merle Haggard and another standout track. “Waiting Tables” features Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack on harmony vocals and sounds like something that would’ve been on those early Eagles records. Vince Gill plays guitar and sings harmony on “No, Thank You”. Henley’s take on the current economic and political climate. This is a solid country rock tune.
“Take a Picture of This” sounds similar to a lot of Henley’s previous solo work. Gill, Alison Krauss, Trisha Yearwood and Ashley Monroe provide harmony on “Praying for Rain”. Henley has long been a crusader for environmental causes and farmers and this song is clearly inspired by the droughts in California.
Martina McBride duets on “This Old Flame”. This is more of a country-pop track, similar to what McBride would do on her albums. “Train in the Distance” is another highlight with harmony by Lucinda Williams.
The album closes with “Where I Am Now” about admitting to past mistakes but looking at your life now and liking where you are. Stellar guitar playing by Smith here.
At a time when mainstream country is getting further away from what country music really is, Henley has made an album that was clearly a labor of love. He got the best out of all the guest artists as well. At 68, Henley sounds as good as ever. He probably won’t make many more albums, so if this is the last one it’s a good way to go out.
01. Bramble Rose
02. The Cost Of Living
03. Take A Picture Of This
04. Waiting Tables
05. No, Thank You
06. Praying For Rain
07. Words Can Break Your Heart
08. That Old Flame
09. When I Stop Dreaming
10. A Younger Man
11. Train In The Distance
12. Where I Am Now