The years have done very little to weary Don Henley, a musician who seems to be unwilling – or perhaps incapable – of slowing down. Cass Country, his newest album, feels less like a hastily constructed cash grab, and more like one of the striking, cohesive records upon which he has built his legendary career. No expense has been spared, no emotion ignored, in order to deliver this powerful release.
Guest spots abound, but the number of featured vocalists doesn’t distract from Henley or his vision. Indeed, the work of fellow legends like Dolly Parton on the heartfelt When I Stop Dreaming or Merle Haggard on The Cost Of Living serves only to further drive home the sheer sincerity of Henley’s sweet-and-sour tones, and to reinforce the sheer uniqueness of his sonic masterplan.
Tracks like Waiting Tables and Too Far Gone are quintessentially Henley-esque, featuring as they do dusty, whiskey soaked narratives with the power to genuinely move. But, that’s not to imply that Henley isn’t willing to ever so subtly alter the direction of his music, or to take some very real risks: Words Can Break Your Heart might not be a total left turn for the musician, but it does see him at his most fragile, and open. The stirring chorus has a real vulnerability to it, one that cuts straight to the quick, and ultimately reminds one of Henley’s myriad of unique talents.
Don Henley’s legendary track record is so well established at this stage, that his fans would not have begrudged if he had released an album while only firing on a few cylinders. But, despite that, Henley hasn’t in any way settled for the easy option. He has pushed himself and his sound further and further, delivering an album with all the wit and energy that one has come to expect from the maverick musician. Nothing about Cass Country is lazy; indeed, from beginning to end, it exudes life, and wit, and wisdom.