Like A Mirror

Casey Abrams

Wampus Multimedia, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The first thing I have to do here is apologize to Casey Abrams, because it's going to take me a few paragraphs before I get to actually talking about this literate, iconoclastic, engaging disc. Don't worry, I'll get there.

Like most aspiring writers, I admire the true greats, the one who are able to construct immortal works of art out of nothing more than nouns and verbs and adjectives and an inverted predicate clause or three. Therefore, ipso facto, I admire Bob Dylan -- as a writer.

As a singer, Dylan is a freaking train wreck.

I have tried for almost 30 years to get past that creaky, raspy, mumbly, whiny voice and fully appreciate the magnificence worshipped by so many. And indeed, Dylan's lyrics are tremendous. The voice, however, is for me an actively painful listening experience. Others I admire manage to get away with vocals that are less than velvet -- Bruce Springsteen comes to mind, belting it out in the hoarse tones of a sleep-deprived cabdriver -- but they use what they've got so expressively that they shove right past their own limitations. Dylan is just... Dylan.

For his part, Casey Abrams is a throwback with more than a little Dylan incorporated in his style. Though he has also issued a full-length with band, on this disc he is alone, just a young singer-songwriter and his acoustic trying to make magic with the microphone. There's more than a bit of pre-electric Bob to said style, full of twisty, sometimes dark narratives set to his own country-blues style picking.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The difference is, Abrams can sing. And that takes the comparison in a perhaps more appropriate direction, towards another oldie but goodie -- Don McLean. Both Abrams' clear, earthy vocals and this somewhat gothic collection of road songs and tragic tales shows more than a little influence from McLean's dark, piquant style.

The artistry Abrams put into these songs is evident in chilly narratives like his somewhat eerie "Twelve Bar Blues" and the justice-comes-home-to-roost story of "The Doppelganger." He isn't averse to relationship songs -- "The View From Here" is one of the more self-aware breakup songs you'll ever hear -- but prefers more character-driven pieces.

Some of my other favorite moments on this disc were the twists and wry humor Abrams weaves into songs like the witty "OIOU" and the ragtime-styled ode to parochialism "We Don't Care How You Do It Up North." "This is the song I would have written for you / But it's written for nobody now" sings our host in the equally entertaining "Nobody's Song," the true-to-life mixture of spite and bemusement coming through loud and clear.

Another high point is his "Ghost Story," an evocative tune about the "ghost of our last chance - or the shade of some long-dead romance" that haunts a pair of ex-lovers as effectively as Marley ever did Scrooge. Nothing complicated, just a very well-crafted song. Last but not least, Abrams himself would have to admit that you're kind of asking for the Dylan comparison when you compose a song called "The Times They Have A-Changed." To his credit, it's a quality piece of work, upbeat and clever.

Like A Mirror is part of a new series from Wampus (the label that issued last year's marvelous Arms Of Kismet disc Eponymous) called the Wampus Multimedia Sessions, featuring a single performer recording a full disc over the course of a single day, evoking the mood and intimacy of a live performance in the context of a studio setting. This approach fits a singer-songwriter like Casey Abrams to a "t."

New traditionalist though he may be, Abrams crafts his own fresh take on familiar forms and breathes new life into them. This disc is a worthwhile pickup for anyone who enjoys thoughtful acoustic music from a singer-songwriter who's mastered the trick of looking backwards and forwards at the same time.

Rating: B+

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© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wampus Multimedia, and is used for informational purposes only.