Love and Lament
By Baylis Greene (East Hampton Star, July 18, 2008 NY )
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks have a new CD.
( 7/15/2008 ) As soon as Gene Casey opens his mouth on his new CD, “What Happened,” his voice plunges to mannish lower registers where only Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings once ventured. He might strain to get there, but get there he does. It’s as if he had completed a strategically targeted course of bovine growth hormone.
The idea is to match the speaker with the hard-luck tale he’s relating in “Which Lie to Tell,” a dusty kind of cheater’s lament from someone who has told one too many. It also announces a departure for Mr. Casey and his band, the Lone Sharks , who over the years have earned a reputation as the East End ’s best live act.
Mr. Casey, who wrote the album’s 12 tracks, has explored the more rewarding corners of country and western music and its progeny and come up with a disc that remains thematically of a piece — love, sex, and what the hell goes wrong — while he and the boys change speeds with practically each song in turn.
Of course it can be fun when romance tanks. “Which Lie to Tell” is followed by a chugging rocker worthy of Dave Edmunds, “Gone Hollywood,” in which Mr. Casey presents a character who relishes the chance to tell off a woman, a fellow singer, who is not only leaving him, but selling out: “You used to be a country girl, but now you’re going pop. An overnight sensation, you’re the toast of Tinseltown. I’d say congratulations but you never come around.”
The lines are delivered in clarion-clear tones of accusation. A switch to an insinuating sotto voce is made in the final kiss-off: “When you’re on the mountain, girl, look before you leap.” Then back to sharp stridency: “The grass is always greener where they put you six feet deep.”
To the extent that anyone still buys CDs and listens to them straight through in the order in which the artist intended, like a book of short stories, this is one that deserves the treatment. The storytelling gives you a variety of perspectives on the affairs of the heart.
The basso profundo at the end of his rope in “Which Lie to Tell” has his temptations explained three songs later in the honky-tonk “Bad Baby,” and then is rebutted three songs after that by someone who doesn’t worry so much, in “That’s What Cheaters Do”: “If I should see you in town, just walking around, should I keep my head down, and not make a sound? As I walk on by, and catch your eye, not even say hi? And you know why. That’s what we do, me and you.”
He goes on to ask for a rendezvous that night in a place where the lights are low.
For the more sensitive, the shuffling “If I Can Do It (So Can You)” is a loser’s rationalization (“learn to deny, learn to forget”) that sounds like Jim Reeves singing Patsy Cline. “I Was Right,” a lovely ballad that would have suited Roy Orbison, examines the depths of self-pity. The speaker first says, “Pardon me, but I told you so,” he’ll never get over her, and then imagines vindication in the utmost delusion: “When she knocks upon my door and says she wants what we had before, then I’ll know for sure, I was right.”
Sometimes it’s all about the mechanics of satisfaction. In “I Love What I Do,” a roadhouse stomp punctuated by a deep Duane Eddy twang, a swinger’s daddy told him to enjoy his work, but “it took me a little while to find where my talents lay. . . . I know what I am, a hard-working man. Working on you” — slight pause — “I love what I do.”
He goes into the particulars: “I put a lot of care into what I do, a whole lot of attention to the details too. . . . I give it all I’ve got, and I’ve been told that’s quite a lot.”
All in all, “What Happened” is as revelatory as a midcentury gem that comes over late-night radio. Gene Casey has forever knocked back the criticism that a local band can’t produce a great album.
North Fork Sound
North Fork Sound
BY HOWARD THOMPSON, North Fork Sound Radio:
Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks: “What Happened”
When I first moved to the North Fork from the Big
City, I wondered if I was making the right move. Sure,
my doctors told me I had to slow down but this was
crazy. Our new abode in New Suffolk makes Mattituck
look like Tokyo and when I stopped by the Post Office
to get a PO Box # Kim, our friendly postmaster,
welcomed me by saying “I hope you like quiet”. I felt
like telling him the only quiet I really like is the
gap before the next track comes crashing in but I held
my tongue. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
We’ve got good ‘peckers in the garden AND a great
‘picker right here on the North Fork. My next door
neighbor, Smugglin’ Johnny C, tipped me to the Lone
Sharks a while back and the first time I saw them, at
the Masonic Temple in Greenport (sadly, now an
overpriced “antique” store) I thought I must be
hearing things. Could there really be a group this
good, this authentic, this real? In 2006?? Out here???
The band were tight, they looked cool, they enjoyed
what they were doing and above all, the audience were
eatin’ it up. We all know real musicians don’t work -
they PLAY - and whether taking on rockabilly, country,
western swing or the blues, they performed like they
were sharing a bill with Buddy Holly. Tunes made
famous by Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy, Bo Diddley, Elvis
and others mingled with homegrown originals, and
everything fit seamlessly.
I went back for more when they played Greenport’s
Monday Night Music Series to a crowd whose ages ranged
from 8 to 80, boys & gals, straights ‘n’ gays, white
collar/blue collar. Talk about a demographic! They had
it all, and pretty much everyone who could, danced to
rockers and ballads and everything in between. I’ve
clocked them a few times since, most notably at a
couple of Shelter Island’s annual (Wades) Beach Blasts
and only last week at the Old Mill in Mattituck, where
they raised the spirits of the Million Dollar Quartet
(subbing Bo D for Jerry Lee).
All of which brings me to their 3rd (and brand new)
12-song cd, “What Happened”, (no ‘question marks’
necessary, bub) now available at CDBaby.com and soon
at the iTunes and Amazon digi-stores. You can bet if
it ever gets released in the UK, the label will press
up some vinyl too, cuz they do that over there. Songs
about lyin’, dancin’, rainin’, cheatin’, dyin’, lovin’
‘n’ leavin’ make it an album most of us can relate to
(I mean – who wants an album about golfin’, cleanin’,
huntin’ or speculatin’, eh?) and when Gene lets his
deep baritone loose, you’d swear the Man In Black
himself just walked in the joint. Impeccably produced
by Casey and Johnny Blood, the Lone Sharks – Chris
Ripley, Tony Palumbo, Paul Scher and Joe Lauro –
expertly back up Gene’s stellar guitar playing with
panache and style while East End neighbor, Nancy
Atlas, harmonizes on “Please Don’t Dance”, a hilarious
slice of boogie that recalls the Georgia Satellites.
Still, Gene is very much his own man and this is the
first time a Sharks’ album is fully self-penned. Stan
Mitchell lent a hand on “That’s What Cheaters Do”, a
barn-storming little country rocker which someone
should get to Carlene Carter, like, NOW while other
standouts include “Gone Hollywood”, “Bad Baby”, “I
Love What I Do”, “I Was Right” and a sonically tweaked
and improved version of the sublime Casey classic
“Who’s Sharing The Moon” which, originally, could be found on
their mini album, “Six Pack”.
Bottom line, this album is as American as you can get,
and it exemplifies the kind of music that makes us
Europeans love American musical culture so much.
Now be a patriot and support your local musicians,
especially this one.
Greenport - Gene Casey, a vocalist, musician and songwriter well-known to the East End has released a new C.D. entitled "What Happened." Along with the Lone Sharks, Casey has once again proven why he and this band are so well-respected by their faithful fans.
The C.D. includes 12 tracks with all songs and music written by Casey, and which reflect his passion for both the blues and honky-tonk, with some rock 'n roll blended in. One track in particular "Ain't Easy Leavin'" soulfully communicates the difficulty and sadness anyone has experienced when faced with the decision to end a long-term relationship. Casey makes this track felt personally as well as lyrically, and performs on vocals, guitar, percussion, harmonica and drums on the C.D.
Joining Casey on the new C.D. release is Chris Ripley (drums, back-vocals); Tony Palumbo (upright bass); Paul Scher (tenor saxophone, and steel guitar); Joe Lauro (upright bass); and another East End favorite - vocalist and musician Nancy Atlas on the track "Please Don't Dance."
Additionally, the talented Johnny Blood not only engineered, mastered and co-produced the C.D. at his studio known as the "House of Ill Repute," he performed electric bass on a number of the tracks.
Musician-Songwriter Gene Casey
The cover painting "Cowboy Drawn To Water" was done by Jim Gingerich. Casey comments that "Gingerich contributed a particular sensibility about displacement and a sense of irony, as well as a total immersion in the natural beauty of the East End (not to mention, the female form), which he has captured so wonderfully in his paintings. There was something about his painting 'Cowboy Drawn to Water' that I related to, the western imagery mixed with the surf and sand, which is kind of the concept of 'The Lone Sharks' anyway."
Speaking with Casey recently, he stated "I’ve made my living playing only music I was passionate about, and felt honored to do so. After
years of playing – and LIVING – the songs of Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, it is natural they come back out of me. I am just grateful for a chance to add my two cents to the on-going conversation."
What was the incentive to write these particular songs, and do you find this CD to be very different from your past releases?
Gene Casey: This time I put the songs first, really. In the past we were more concerned with trying to capture our live act on record and that dominated the focus. This time I didn’t worry about genre, direction, the marketplace, or anything other than simply following through on the tunes themselves. As a result I think there is a more relaxed, honest feel to this record.
How long did these songs germinate before you considered them complete enough to record?
GC: The songs themselves came pretty fast, which is usually a good sign. Then I went to the studio (Johnny Blood – who plays with Nancy Atlas – has a home studio in Springs) and began to make what I thought were demos – to see if these new songs were any good! After a few sessions I realized we had an album taking shape.
How long did it take to record this C.D.?
GC: Over the course of a full year when the schedule permitted I would go in and lay something down - that is the hard part - arranging a session when everyone is available in between gigs, jobs and life. When you are doing it yourself even the most minor thing takes up time.
Did you collaborate on any of the songwriting with other artists or musicians?
Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks perform at Nick's On The Beach in Montauk.
Photo by Joe Strand
GC: This is pretty much a solo record in that regard, however, there is a tune, “That’s What Cheater’s Do” – a real intense rockabilly type song, that harkened back to one written by Stan Mitchell, who was the Sharks drummer for a long time. So in the spirit of friendly larceny he gets co-credit.
Can you describe briefly your songwriting process?
GC: Very much like me - scattered, disheveled, erratic, I’m afraid. You’ll find scraps of paper everywhere - napkins, phone bills, with my scrawling on it. Inspiration hits without warning and when that happens you gotta chase the idea down and go wherever it goes. Not convenient when you are trying to lead a dignified life and suddenly you are scrambling and asking everyone for a pen. Songs kind of happen to me, and I have learned to stop arguing with them.
Given your versatile musicianship would you say you 'hear' the music before the lyrics?
GC: I have to say, for me, it is instantaneous. They come at once, together. A lyric idea has its own rhythm and musical logic and pretty much I follow it to the end. I’ve not been successful marrying a pre-written lyric to music or vise-versa. Of course, in both cases, words and music, my aim is to be very clear and simple.