With headphones on and some time to relax my sofa became my vehicle to take me on, and to, all the endless roads and neighborhoods that Casual Participant’s latest release would take me through. A couple of closed eyes, some coffee, and the early morning song of the birds were a well-placed background to delve into this record from these fellas. These Casual Participant fellas are comprised of Tommy Cappel (guitar, bass, keys, vocals), Michael Rendell Hensley (vocals, and artwork), Joe Mitchell (vocals, cello), Travis Talbert (pedal steel, guitar), Mark Becknell (drums), Dusty Bryant (piano). A supergroup of local troubadours who have all been in or are in bands together, recorded with each other, and have been doing this music thing for a good long while to sum it all up. This isn’t about them as individuals though, maybe that for a later date, rather this is about these fourteen tracks that comprise this self-titled record.
As “Anchor City” kicked the album off I pictured myself rambling around our fair town of Cincinnati and the Northern Kentucky area throughout this song and honestly the entire record. The record even took me onto the interstate’s and state roads where I long to get back to. With no destination just the open road and some music to wail as loud as the road is long. The guitar solos on the record were cutting through me like laser beams and I enjoyed every second of it. Because you know, it is great to hear guitar solos. The solos are as much a part of the song as any of the other bits. Which I suppose is why I like them so much.
Lyrically there are scenes of our region, and questions of what we are becoming? “Words on Screen” is a song that takes me there. The idea of being attached to our super computers that reside in our pockets, or more and more our hands. There are these songs throughout the record that are like this. Holding a mirror up to one’s self and trying to figure out what you see when you see what is looking back at you, or, holding a mirror up to all of us as a society and asking the same questions. “Repeat the Nightly News” is another one of these songs. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the song “Anna Lies.” All I will say is that I like the play on words. Well done with that fellas.
There are fourteen tracks on this record, one hour. For that hour the notes played were like the dotted lines on the interstates and the lyrics the backdrop and together they took me to and through our city and all around. Seeing all the people’s faces that reside here. Even the faces I see in my own community. This record is very much a communal effort with all the players on it. Tommy Cappel told me “I recorded the acoustic and electric (guitars) to a metronome along with a scratch vocal and sent that to everyone.” Then they all added their own parts a communal effort for the sake of songs during these trying times. And, for an hour I went for a ride that going into it I wasn’t entirely sure where we were going, and I still don’t, but somebody once said “it’s not about the destination, instead it is the experience of getting there.” Or something like that.
For an hour I enjoyed the ride. Casually being a participant in the listening experience of Casual Participant’s record. I hope you all enjoy the record and have a completely different experience with it than I did. Because that is the true beauty of music listening to the same songs and going to different places. Amidst of all this pandemicness these guys rallied and cut a record, and ya know what, it’s pretty damn good. Listen, enjoy, and be kind.