Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
June 21, 2014 - 12:00am EDT
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"3-D" is a most appropriate title for Casey Driessen's 56-minute solo project that showcases his great depth and comfort with multiple musical dimensions from many genres. Born in Chicago, this young man in his mid-30s is a grad with honors from the Berklee School of Music, and his music tells me that he's a young innovator with plenty of raw energy and a brash attitude. He hasn't gotten so far out there that I'd call him an impudent, irreverent or disrespectful whipper-snapper. Instead, his creativity emits infectious spunk on complete reinventions of some traditional fiddle tunes (Jerusalem Ridge, Sugarfoot Rag, Snowflake Reel, Done Gone, Cheyenne, Sally in the Garden), as well as plenty of his own surreal and evocative compositions.

Based on the old-time "Cumberland Gap," a new tune emerges called "Gaptooth." You may not even recognize the heads of some of the original tunes when they're presented as fiddle and drum duets. The results elevate Casey's status as a visionary who communicates a respect for traditional music in his own uniquely personalized manner with syncopated rhythms and improvisation. Multi-tracking his 5-string (or electric) fiddle creates some deliriously fun polyphonic sprees. Does he get a little too far out there and away from the original melodic inspiration at times? OK, maybe just a tad. 

There are beautifully melancholic (and melodic) moments in "2 A.M.," and there's soulful loveliness in a piece like "Cliff Dweller's Slide." Driessen sings Sugarfoot Rag, Country Blues and Footsteps So Near. The equalization of his vocals is minimalist, and that adds to the overall mystery. The latter number, originally done as a waltz by Hot Rize, is actually a rawboned conversation between just Casey's fiddles and vocals. For "Country Blues," the instruments were tuned down for a little extra grit and growl. Darrell Scott provides vocal harmonies on two pieces, and like the lead vocals they are fairly understated. 

Most of Casey's offerings have percussion (Jamey Haddad) and bass (Viktor Krauss). A few incorporate Darrell Scott's electric guitar, Tim O'Brien's bouzouki, Jerry Douglas' dobro or lap steel, Bela Fleck's banjo, or Jason Lehring's programming. I kind of missed Bryan Sutton's guitar-playing who was a key component of the touring 2005 trio of Driessen, Fleck and Sutton while back. Linus Nagel-Driessen provides vocals on "Good Boy Blues." That 3-minute one-take closer is indubitably for the dogs - Linus is a Staffordshire Terrier, and he really howls, in bluesy call-and-response style, to Casey's fiddle and looped mandotar. Linus has a great sense of rhythm and almost steals the show, but Linus and the rest of us won't forget that Casey is the master ... and now known as one of the big dogs in Nashville. (Joe Ross)