Monday, April 4, 2016

Steven Casper and Cowboy Angst Prepare to Release 'I Feel Like I've Got Snakes in My Head'

For Steven Casper and Cowboy Angst, 2015 ended on a high note with the group being named one of Music Connection Magazine’s “hottest unsigned bands”  while putting the finishing touches on their upcomong release, I Feel Like I’ve Got Snakes In My Head.

Once again collaborating with producer, Ira Ingber (Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, JD Souther), Casper rounded up his bandmates (who also happen to be in-demand L.A. session players); John McDuffie, Carl Byron, Herb Deitelbaum and Jay Nowac, and added the gospel-sounding  guest vocals of McCrary sisters, Charity and Linda (his third time working with them) to create the 7-song EP.

This isn’t his first EP—like 2014’s Endless Sky, and 2012’s Trouble, Casper has made a deliberate choice in only putting out a few songs at a time.  “I love albums,” he says.  “I don’t care about singles.  But we’re really tribal in our listening now. We don’t have to wait for radio to lay music we like; we go to a streaming service and listen to what we want.  I want my music out there soon, so instead of full LPs I’m putting out 6 or 7 track Eps.”

The opening track “For a Few Dollars Less” is a muscular instrumental duel between John McDuffie’s lonesome surf guitar and Carl Byron’s harpsichord that pays homage to one of Casper’s favorite film composers, Ennio Moricone (of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns).

From there Casper goes roadhouse with the bluesy rocker “Driving Fast” and dynamic “Restless Heart,” followed by honky-tonker “She’s Bad.” After a fun spin south of the border with the enticing “Maria,” he turns contemplative for “Slow Dancing.” The EP ends with a reprise of “Driving Fast” that downshifts to just his raspy vocal and acoustic guitar, Byron’s accordion and tambourine. The alternate take shows off the piece’s musicality, and Byron’s sensitive artistry.

“Sometimes when we’re mixing, we discover a new song within the song,” Casper explains. “In Booker T & the MGs, Steve Cropper, the guitarist, never did anything flashy, he just did the perfect thing. And that’s what Carl reminds me of. He plays really soulfully, and he plays the perfect thing that’s needed.”

McDuffie is similarly invaluable to Casper’s warmly received live band; he’s played with Casper for three years, Byron for four, and bassist Herb Deitelbaum and drummer Jay Nowac for ten. The road-seasoned veterans’ loyalty is grounded in mutual respect and love of music. For Casper, the song’s the thing. He wants audiences “to feel the music,” and is determined to “write the best songs I can. The main success is writing a good song.”

Ingber once again was able to capture the bands dynamic live sound on I Feel Like I’ve Got Snakes in my Head .  The record is a little more bluesy than Endless Sky, but still retains Casper’s ability to provide a variety of sounds from roots rock to country to Americana while never losing the spirit of the West Coast where he resides.

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