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Don Henley - 'Cass County' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/4b/a3/aa/don-henley-cass-county-56-1449604031.jpg Hot

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Any long-term Don Henley fans will find much enjoyment in this sophisticated album.

When it comes to Country Rock bands, as far as I'm concerned there are none better than the mighty Eagles. However, Don Henley's solo material has veered into a more introspective and contemporary direction that lyrically sees him casting a world-weary, oft caustic eye over the state of the world and the Good 'Ol U.S. of A. – something that filtered through into the day-job band as they progressed through their career.

So it comes as something of a surprise that Henley's latest solo effort (and his first since 2000's 'Inside Job') is actually a pure Country album – such endeavours are usually the department of his band-mates Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmidt (indeed, Schmidt has a writing credit here.)

To fulfil his brief, Henley has enlisted the help of a cast of Country stars old and new, like Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe – and Mick Jagger!

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In truth, when you strip away some of the Country flourishes, there are a number of songs such as 'The Cost Of Living', 'Waiting Tables', 'Words Can Break Your Heart', the elegant 'Praying For Rain' and especially the sublime 'Take A Picture Of This' that aren't a million miles away from Henley's MOR material like 'Heart Of The Matter' or 'The Last Worthless Evening'. The partnership with long-term collaborator Stan Lynch no doubt enhances this fact, the wonderful, slow-burning duet with the excellent McBride, 'That Old Flame', being one of the finest examples of their alliances to date.

But there is no getting away from the fact that this is indeed a Country album, as the inclusion of the genre's oldies 'Bramble Rose' (featuring Jagger), 'Too Far Gone' and 'When I Stop Dreaming' (with Parton) testify. The one thing that remains consistent throughout, though, is the sheer magnificence of Henley's performance. At the age of sixty-eight, the timbre of his voice is just as perfect as it was when TE' debut appeared back in 1972.

The abundance of Country elements on 'Cass County' won't be to everybody's tastes for sure, but any long-term Don Henley fans will find much enjoyment in this sophisticated album.

Ant Heeks

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