The Eagles loomed huge and cast a long shadow on popular music from the mid-70s onwards with “Hotel California” being one of the most requested songs of cover bands. But for me, Eagle Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence (1989) remains one of the most important albums ever produced.
Since that time, Henley has only released one solo LP (Inside Job in 2000) before Cass County, of course. What is surprising is that Henley has gone back to the early Eagles country-rock to underpin his latest rumination on life and politics. For that reason, Cass County is probably his best work since The End of the Innocence. But just in case, you needed convincing, Henley managed to rope in a couple of stellar guest stars viz. Mick Jagger (“Bramble Rose”), Merle Haggard (“The Cost of Living”) and Dolly Parton (“When I Stop Dreaming”).
But more than that, the contribution of ex-Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch to the songs and production does make a significant difference.
Considering the country-folk thrust of Cass County, perhaps it is ironic that the most satisfying track here is the new single, “Take A Picture Of This” which is not country at all. Instead it is a wistful pop-rock ballad that the likes of John Lennon and Jeff Lynne (ELO) would probably have written – one that reflects on a baby boomer marriage gone sour. Thematically (if not musically), it hearkens back to one of Henley’s finest moments, “The Heart of the Matter”, and for that reason, Cass Country is one new album that will be closely treasured by yours truly.