Horse racing and country music are two occupations where pedigree can often be a strong predictor of talent and skill. So word coming down that traditional country legend Mark Chesnutt’s son is leaning hard into making country music is a plenty good excuse to perk your ears up and pay attention.
Casey Chesnutt is not new to the music business. Learning guitar at the age of 13, he was playing in bars five nights a week while still in high school. But after graduation in 2015, he signed a five-year commitment to the Marine Corps, and was shipped overseas, serving as a rifleman and ascending to the rank of sergeant with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 2nd Marines before fulfilling his commitment.
Returning to home near the Texas/Louisiana border in the summer of 2020, he immediately implemented a plan to pursue music full time, even if the pandemic made that effort exceptionally difficult. Still, digging his old contacts up at bars and honky tonks throughout east Texas and west Louisiana, and getting to work on an EP, Casey Chesnutt made the country music plunge, wife and youngin at home and all.
Casey will be the first to admit that his songwriter skills at this stage are more aspirational than polished. He’s still relying on the songs of others at this point in his career. But he sure can pick ’em, play ’em, and sing ’em like a seasoned performer. That’s what you hear on his exquisitely-produced and fiercely-traditional debut EP called Down Mexico Way.
You immediately fall for the Lone Star-sized tearjerker “Even Texas Couldn’t Hold Her.” The next three songs are a bit more sentimental, but still exquisite traditional country in a contemporary form exceptionally performed by Casey. It’s incredible the quality of traditional country songs out there just waiting to be recorded, but it takes a voice like Casey’s to do them justice.
Though Casey boasts plenty of more rocking music in his live repertoire, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree with this EP. Slow to mid tempo, and slathering on the twang and heartache, there’s no half measures taken, even if this 5-song sample size is short. The final song “Jose Can You See” may be a bit too corn pone, similar to the EP’s cover, but it does add some lightheartedness to what is a heavy, heavy album.
This wasn’t supposed to be an album review, just a heads up that Mark Chesnutt’s son was getting into the family business, and to keep an eye out for him. But Down Mexico Way is such a promising and resounding pronouncement of a new voice in the true country realm—and comprises such a great collection of songs and performances—Chesnutt’s not a guy you need to be on the lookout for, he’s the dude you need to be paying attention to right here and now.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)