Casey Donahew Band

Standoff

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The Casey Donahew Band accentuate their outlaw image on the deliriously good album art for Standoff, designing the cover as a western movie poster that hearkens back to Stagecoach and High Noon. Donahew mines a lot of evergreen country themes -- whiskey, small towns, lost loves, losers -- but his band doesn't really sound very western, at least in the old-fashioned gunslinger sense. They're thoroughly modern, borrowing elements of dusty Texan country but pledging a greater allegiance to the roots rock of the '80s -- the great, wide-open plains of John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and their legions of imitators. Sometimes, they're reminiscent of a bigger, streamlined, rockier Turnpike Troubadours -- an outfit from a similar location with similar inclinations, but with a stronger country and literary bent; sometimes they have just a hint of Eric Church's swagger and, combined, this gives them an appealing, open-hearted energy that contradicts the battling undertones of the album title and cover art. They're eager to please the crowds with their rockers and ballads alike, so it's hard not to warm to them by the time Standoff draws to a close.

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