Casey Driessen is back with a new CD titled Oog. Considering he already has one Grammy nomination under his belt, there is name recognition. The tour of two years in order to get the word out about his first Sugar Hill release, 3D, helped to land it solidly in the hands of listeners.
This new CD allows Driessen to rest a bit on his laurels and start showcasing other musical abilities besides playing the fiddle. A producer as well as a composer, the songs go from one extreme to the others. Fear not, the fiddle has not been left behind just yet. It has grown up a bit so the diverse melodies are respected. Red shoes, Driessen's trademark, are also in evidence, albeit unseen.
Along for the ride are a group of companions in the adventure – Matt Chamberlain on drums, percussion, electronic mangulation, and fiddlesticks; Darrell Scott playing electric guitars and pedal steel guitar; Victor Krauss with basses plus Jason Lehning, who is a co producer and engineer. Each has his own fame and solid reputation in the music field. However, what makes their quintet unique is the one rehearsal they put together as well as the three days they spent in the studio.
Oog is quite an unusual title! The inspiration for it came from the artist M.C. Escher. Tucked inside the moniker is a nod to Drissen's live performances while he traveled the world. Part of those travels came from working with others on pieces, while certain performances were done at a solo level. There might even be a few fans who remember his work as part of the trio called the Colorfools. Although Driessen has played on some of the finest stages, perhaps none is bigger than the one for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He played there with Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet to support the quartet's full length debut.
The compilation of songs on Oog is a blend of both traditional and improvisational styles, using a rock infusion to create original pieces and a few other works which take away the intended composing and are interpreting the song. The idea is to let one's mind find things to inspire in the cacophony (or silence) of life.
"Uncontinental Breakfast" took me to the time of Arabia and the sensual nights. The music may not be breathtaking, but it works okay. The beat helps add to the enjoyment by giving out a rhythm one can tap one's toes to.
A contrast of sorts can be found in "Ashland Breakdown". The fiddle can be heard loud and clear. Driessen is from Tennessee, so the use of this particular instrument is hardly surprising. It sent me to a country hoedown, where the alcohol flows freely and dancing is sheer passion and pleasure.
There is a distinct blues feel when one listens to "I'm satisfied with you". Drums are heard in the opening notes, but they are hit by a brush of some kind in order to make a soft swish against the drum cover. Nice! Vocals imply that it is better to be happy with what one has rather than to try and find something better. There is always something better. A good lesson anyone can learn.
One sound stood out on "Lunar Cages". The rat a tat tat of a woodpecker. Okay, so it was an instrument rather than the actual bird. Still, it played constantly throughout the entire song, which is probably more than is reasonable. The first couple of stanzas were more than sufficient. After that, it should be thought of as a distraction.
The most diverse piece is "Flexible Helix". This song alternates between country and rock beats. Starting off slow, the tune gets attention quickly. It turns into hard country rock. The effect is interesting and fun. No chance to get bored here, since there is a switch to something else before too long.
The final selection was a bonus tune, "Regarding Life Thus Far". At first listen, the tune is not unlike "Wild Thing", a rock classic. I was taken inside a jungle with a witch doctor not far away. The beat is exotic, sending a heartbeat to overdrive with its pulsating content.
Music has the ability to transport listeners to places outside themselves,. Although one may not travel on a regular basis, songs can serve the purpose nicely. Casey Driessen has created a CD without lyrics for the most part, which makes it just a bit difficult to figure out what message he is trying to get across. This being said, there is perhaps a good deal of work which is seen in every melody and harmony. It's clear Driessen spent much time getting each piece exactly right before letting anybody listen to it.
What do I think of this CD on a personal level? There were some songs I liked very much, although a few others were not to my taste. As it is with music, each to his his or her own. This is why there are fourteen songs on here, so someone can find a tune well loved even if most are thought of badly. It just depends on one's likes and what has been the personal music journey. Basically, it's all relative.