Roger Dean Young sounds a lot older than he looks. At least, he sounds a lot older than he looks on his label’s website. He could very well be as weathered and weary as his voice, and I’m a touch embarrassed that I really couldn’t tell you if the guy’s actually as youthful as his press photos lead one to believe. Roger hails from Vancouver, and as someone who erroneously likes to think he’s on top of most things musical in our wonderful burg, I feel like I should recognize someone who’s making records that are this good.
Casa features a small army of musicians who get together to back Young on the album’s twelve tracks. Falling mostly within the realm of very classic-sounding folk, the record also stretches its legs to incorporate elements of jazz, as well as some southwestern flavours. The latter types of numbers, like “Little Wind,” are vaguely reminiscent of Calexico at their laid-back best. For the most part, however, Casa finds Young and the rotating cast who make up the Tin Cup sticking to old-time Appalachian tunes that would sound at home sharing a double with the Carter Family. The instrumentation is lush but never overbearing, intricate without ever sounding busy, and always leaves space for Young’s raspy croon to take centre stage. And it’s Roger’s voice that might make this record.
The obvious reference point would be Dylan. To top it off, Young has a habit of half-mumbling his way through his lines, obscuring most of the lyrics. That might not sound like the greatest thing in the world, but anything he loses as a pure vocalist, he makes up for with the mood his creaking timbre evokes. And, particularly when it’s paired with one of the album’s many female guests, his gravel-throated delivery sets the perfect mood for whiskey-soaked nights or hungover days. If you’re like me, you live plenty of both.