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.
Just when I began to despair about whether any one out there in the modern pop wasteland is making authentic pop-rock still… I discover that there are flickering embers of hope. If you know where to look.
Well, Drug Cabin viz. Nathan Thelen (ex Pretty Girls Make Graves) and Marcus Congleton (ex Ambulance LTD), probably feel the same way as I do cuz the band released TWO LPs earlier this year which demonstrate that there is potentially timeless pop-rock being produced even in 2015! The 2 albums are Yard Work and Wiggle Room and there’s not much to distinguish between the two. My guess is that duo had so much music that they needed to put it all out at the same time. But I am sure that true blue pop-rock lovers will not have any complaints about this move.
On Yard Work, songs like the mid tempo breezy “California”, the country-folky “Dogs”, the laid back syncopated “Hollywood” & the disco-rock channeling “Jesus” stake their claim on 60s/70s rock, with a shimmering pedal steel bringing it home.
On Wiggle Room, songs like the tongue-in-cheek “Steely Dad”, the earthy “Ruby”, the sophisticated “Wonderful” and the easy-going title track, sound like a continuation of Yard Work – or is it the other way round?
Fact is, at a total of 56 minutes, both albums could have been released as one monster of a 22-track instant classic and to be honest in this digital age, it does not really matter too much.
Not only that but if you add the eponymous 6-track mini-album from 2012, what you get is a bumper crop of tracks that are wondrously inspired by the classic pop-rock music of the best rock decade of all time (see Spotify playlist below). In all probability, Drug Cabin and their sterling work will go under the radar somewhat but if like me, you don’t give a shit about trends and only want to listen to great music, then Drug Cabin is the place for you!