Casey Hensley has the blues inside her. Imprinted on her soul, this young singer and songwriter out of Oceanside, CA sings the blues with a vocal range that is just amazing, bringing to mind many of the most famous female blues singers to ever have graced the stage. Singing her own songs, she has imprinted on them a style all their own. As shown in her new Good As Gone album, Casey can really write and sing the blues. Not only the basic blues, but many of the offshoots too, showing a depth and knowledge of this range of styles and converting them into a vehicle for her powerhouse vocals. Blues, Soul, R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Swing all become part of Casey’s repertoire.
Casey, also, hearkens back to the era when a singer was a singer and not a singer/**. Up on stage, she has the presence of a Tina Turner, the sass of Big Mama Thornton, the pure passion of Janis Joplin; and the purity of voice of Etta James. She has assembled an excellent band for her new album, on which she presents nine original songs and her stunning vocals. A big proponent of “doing it her way”, Casey has taken the Producer’s mantle for Good as Gone. Co-producing the album as well as providing the guitar tracks is Laura Chavez, one of the top blues guitarists around today. Laura spent several years backing the blues singer and ex-porn star Candye Kane, as well as recording albums for a host of others including Mike Ledbetter, Monster Mike Welch, Vanessa Collier and Nikki Hill. Backing her on drums is Evan Caleb Yearsley. The bass line is held down by Marcos C., another of the Southern California musicians that make up her current band. Johnny Viau and Steve Ebner provide horns for many of the album’s tracks.
The Los Angeles Beat asked Casey some questions about her musical history as well as the Good As Gone album. Here, she gives us an insight into how all of this came about:
Q: You seem to find a wide range of musical styles that you can extract the blues from. Was the blues a natural draw for your singing and writing?
A: It definitely was. I’ve always had a very bluesy voice and loved rock n roll and soul, singing and writing blues songs came very naturally to me.
A: Love Will Break Your Heart is one of my favorite songs on this record. I first had the beginning horn part in my head so I sang it into my phone and then as I kept singing to myself, the lyrics just poured out of me all at once, I still have that recording on my phone, it was just one of those amazing times in writing where the song almost demanded to come out. That song was written with 100% raw feeling and I wanted to make sure it sounded that way as well.
Q: When did you start singing? Did you try other styles while you were learning to sing?
A: I’ve been singing on stage since I was about 5 years old, and in studios, since I was 8. I have always sung many different styles of music, I grew up on a lot of soul and jazz and Rock n Roll, and later in my life, I was in a psych-rock band and I also did some movie trailer music work and that was so much fun, I really got to use my voice as an instrument. I try not to categorize my style too much, I love to sing everything, and I plan on making many different kinds of records and I’d love to collaborate with all kinds of musicians in the future.
Q: Be My Baby has a nice classic shuffle sound to it. Are you partial to the early forms of blues and R&B?
A: I love it, it is definitely part of who I am. I think this album and all of the different styles on it are a great way to introduce myself as an artist.
A: I could really go on and on, from Ella Fitzgerald, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Freddy Mercury, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Heart, Journey, The Allman Brothers, Yolanda Adams, Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones… I am such a fan of all music. I try to take a little bit of it all with me and make something that sounds like Casey.
Thank you, Casey!!
From the first bars of the title track, Good As Gone, you can tell this is Casey’s album. She comes at you singing like a tornado, blowing away everything in her path with her powerful, stunning vocals. Casey really knows how to write her songs to use the best of her vocal abilities. Good as Gone is a blues rocker that just draws you into her world. When Laura comes in with her hard-edged guitar and the bass and drums begin to play, this song will have you moving immediately. Indeed, it is a perfect song for a live show, of which Casey has mastered to a fine degree. Although on hiatus from performing since the pandemic began, Casey is hopeful to resume live performances soon.
You Should Be So Lucky is more of a straight Chicago blues. Laura’s laid-back blues guitar and Casey’s vocals, rough and tinged with weariness, tell a good part of this accusatory song that plays so well in the blues. Be My Baby (What Do You Say?) takes the heart of jump music and distills it into a short tune that will have you flipping your partner in the air and between your knees. Johnny Viau and Steve Ebner perfectly catch the feeling of the jump and jive era with their horn licks, while kudos has to go to Casey, who again shows she can write in different styles and pull off a tune which should be a bona-fide hit.
The same thing follows with Love Will Break Your Heart. It’s easy to visualize this song, written by Casey but performed live on stage by someone like Aretha Franklin and her band. Understand though, Casey Hensley is not copying a style; it is obvious that she is feeling this music through and through. Songs like this can only come from inside the soul. That may be the key to Casey Hensley’s powerful 1-2 punch of writing and singing. She is able to write the songs as she envisions them, rather than taking someone else’s material and trying to bend it to her way of singing. She feels the music and has the ability to pull it off, but also the producer’s sense to allow the band to take their moments.
On Casey’s previous album, the debut LIVE album from 2017 (also on Vizz-Tone Records), she did do some originals, but it was primarily a cover album. With Good As Gone, she proves that she doesn’t need covers to excite an audience. What’s a Woman To Do takes a trip down Motown Way. This R&B-styled song is another toe-tapper and shows Casey’s voice to effect as it glides between rough and nice to create a tune where your fantasy will be looking for the backup singers, expecting to do some great choreography. Don’t Want It to Stop showcases Casey and her band in a slow tune that also has a stellar performance on guitar by Laura Chavez. Her guitar solo tears at your heart in the same way that Casey Hensley’s vocals do.
Reminiscent of Dave Alvin, Laura Chavez also shines on All In, a jump and jive song that might just turn into a classic. Casey Hensley seems to have a particular affinity for the jive era and she is great at creating a song that has familiar elements but is still fresh and new. That in itself is the secret to Casey Hensley and her music. She knows how to write for the style; she knows how to sing for the style; and she knows how to keep the songs fresh and new and not sounding like a rehash of an old Stray Cats song.
Casey Hensley has it all; and as more live performance venues open up she is bound to start performing again. With these new, fresh songs from Good As Gone, her live shows are going to be hard to beat. Casey Hensley is a star on the rise; and not only blues fans but those who love the various sub-genres she so successfully writes and sings in also need to pay attention to this powerful young vocalist.
All photos courtesy of Casey Hensley and Doug Deutsch PR