Like a can of WD-40 or an old-fashioned cure-all, country music is handy in a multitude of applications. Most notably though, it’s effective on broken hearts or helping to get over a breakup by speaking to your pain and letting you know you’re not the only one who’s gone through it. If you’re a good candidate for this treatment or even if you’re not, Casper McWade is serving up the remedy. It may not come in a brown bottle or require a prescription, but it is certainly effective for the pain.
One of the great things about the overwhelming success of independent country superstar Cody Jinks is that it has allowed a whole cottage industry of songwriters to launch sustainable careers within his orbit. Casper McWade is one of them. Cody covered Casper’s song “Whiskey” on his 2019 album The Wanting, and the two also co-wrote the title track to Casper’s last album, 2020’s Unraveled. Cody and Casper also covered the Alice in Chains track “Don’t Follow” together.
It’s been Cody and songwriters like Casper who’ve insisted that top-shelf songwriting be part of the present-day Outlaw movement. Being an Outlaw these days isn’t just about Harley-Davidsons and cursing the suits on Music Row. It’s about offering a healthier, better, and more country alternative to the mainstream. This is what Casper McWade does on Something for the Pain. A classic country divorce record, Casper and his co-writers navigate the various contours of a marital breakup ranging from self-righteous indignation to quiet reflection, and the myriad of emotions in between.
Like McWade sings in these songs, being lonely is often better than being in a bad relationship. Sometimes a broken home is better than one that’s always combative. Also broached on this album is how being a musician and a dreamer can often create friction in a home life when you’re constantly being called away.
Though the baseline for Casper McWade’s sound is those old Outlaw influences, the way the fiddle of Matt Parks comes in on certain songs reminds you of the most fetching elements of Red Dirt, which makes sense since Casper is originally from Shawnee, Oklahoma. The subject matter might be full of bitter pills, but the music goes down easy.
Something for the Pain was recorded at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX with Cody Jinks bass player Josh Thompson producing. Also appearing are “Cowboy” Eddie Long on pedal steel, Drew Harakal on organ also from Cody’s band, Grant McCray on drums who also co-wrote “Tattoo on My Mind,” and Jay Tooke previously of The Steel Woods on guitar.
The cohesive nature of the album is one of its assets. Casper delves deep into heartbreak, and doesn’t let up. If there’s a soft spot on the album, it might be Casper’s cover of Merle Haggard’s “Motorcycle Cowboy.” It’s a fine rendition of the song, and might be great for the biker audience in Luckenbach. But on an otherwise morose album, it just feels a bit out-of-place with it’s basic blues progression and simple writing.
But really, this just speaks to the weight of the rest of the songs on Something for the Pain, including co-writes by Josh Morningstar, Bryan Martin, Jamie Richards, Walt Wilkins, and others. No pain, no gain. And Casper brings the pain, though the album does end on a more upbeat note with the cleverly-written “Go Together,” which also allows “Cowboy” Eddie Long to put on a steel guitar clinic.
If music is medicine, Something for the Pain is extra strength.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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