Like so many country artists before him, Nick Casey lets the oft-repeated words of songwriter Harlan Howard be his muse: The only thing a good country song needs are “three chords and the truth.” As the tracks of Casey’s album Ghosts Like Me play through, that phrase clings to each song. There is a simplicity and earnestness coupled with swagger and gravitas buoyed by a dependable skeleton of bass, guitar, and drums with each part doing exactly what it’s supposed to in the delivery of a story. An accent harmony on the chorus, a chicken-picked Telecaster solo, a haunting fiddle melody all laid on top of reliable strummed chords, and the song as a whole becomes the delivery of an experience.
Sometimes given the tag “outlaw country,” Nick Casey and The Full Damn Band is composed of Ryan Tremblay on lead guitar, Uncle Jarod Cournoyer on bass, and Ethan “Big Dog” Lyons on drums; Olivia Baxter played fiddle on the album recorded at Lakewest Recording Studio in West Greenwich. A low baritone reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Casey delivers stories that bring to mind the ballads of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, or Willie Nelson, backed up with a band rooted in a chugging blues momentum that gives a nod to the country elements, but very much delivers more than a few jams in a style all their own.
“I was drawn to country by an uncle of mine who lives in Texas,” begins Casey. “He always loved the music of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, and my mother loved the country stars of the ‘90s and early 2000s. Driving to school, we were always listening to Reba McEntire or Trisha Yearwood.” Casey continues, “since my first shows in 2013, I’ve always related more to those country legends, Waylon, Johnny, and The Hag. Between the older music and the more traditional artists making names for themselves today like Jamey Johnson, Tyler Childers, and Colter Wall, I’ve found my own sound that I think works pretty well.”
Country music is very much its own fixture with storytelling at its core and for the most part, Casey stays true to these roots. “I think the storytelling aspect of country music comes from my own personal experience. People hear a song and they feel like they’re hearing their own life story. That’s what makes country music great,” Casey muses. “The approach to a song comes in a million different directions. I’ve sat down and wrote the lyrics out as a poem first to try and get stronger lyrics. After that, I put it to chords. Other times, I’ve come up with a guitar melody and the lyrics sometimes just pour out of nowhere.”