TITLE: THE LOVE STILL SHOWS
ARTIST: DONNA LYNN CASKEY
LABEL: CORDULIA MUSIC
RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2017
In troubling times, a voice of simplicity, humanity and compassion can go a long way to help soothe the worried and weary, be a salve to the soul and give hope where hope is running thin. It is in precisely these times that I find myself in my truck listening over and over to the new CD by Donna Lynn Caskey The Love Still Shows.
Introspective, gentle, vulnerable, confessional, quiet CLAWHAMMER BANJO. Wait a minute, what?! These words don’t generally occupy the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. The reason they do now is because of this admittedly introverted but quite gifted singer/songwriter out of Virginia, now residing in her adopted hometown of Ventura, California.
The Love Still Shows is Caskey’s second CD and follows 2014s Nameless Heart with another outstanding collection of eleven songs. The songs are deeply personal, and also deeply universal in their themes of love, loss, forgiveness and overcoming odds.
Nope, this is not your typical clawhammer banjo album, nor your typical cute chick putting her banjo corn pone on. It’s much quieter and miles deeper than that. It ain’t country. Though she is without a doubt a banjo badass, rather than impress by shredding, she chooses instead to bend the open-back banjo to her own warm and gentle style, crafting poetic songs which sound old-timey and brand new at the same time. Her playing throughout is so strong and natural that it becomes transparent, all in order to serve the songs who are the real stars of this show.
There is a quiet power to Caskey’s songwriting. By sharing these very personal portraits of her own life as she struggles, and sometimes bumbles her way through, insecure of her own steps, we can easily recognize the same in our own unsure, lurching steps. “There is a song inside of me longing to break free,” she sings on the opening track, illustrating her own inner conflict between shyness and showbiz. That she has found the strength to dip her toes in the latter is something we all benefit from.
Caskey further seeks and finds the strength to be herself as she writes in Look At Me:
Today I dress to please myself
A grey-green hat to match my eyes
Patchwork Kaleidoscopic color
I feel at ease, shed my disguise.
Along the way on her quiet journey there are light moments, too as she sings in Beauty Queen, her ode to “strong smart women / Who were agonized by the size of their thighs.” Or the delight of being adopted by a sweet-natured neighborhood kitty in Angel Of A Cat.
Produced by the multi-tasking and multi-talented Ed Tree, the CD shimmers and glows appropriately. It’s a quiet record, it’s tones understated and hushed. Tree adds some tasteful guitar to the proceedings and some tunes feature the astounding and beautiful fiddling of the one and only Gabe Witcher.
Odds Are For Beating is a sweet tribute to her parents and the strength of their love as they each faced their own mortality. My Blessed Child and The Book are two songs on the CD that are unabashedly old style Appalachian in spirit. These songs could have easily been written a hundred years ago. They are reminders that while Caskey is modern, her roots are southern. She has a natural Virginian’s ear and an appreciation for the ancient chants of the hills and hollers.
The medley of the original I Am Willing and the traditional Down By The Riverside is her encouraging message for all of us in the challenging years ahead.
I’m not sure what I need to do
But I am willing to, I am willing.
But it is the final song on the CD that caused a bonafide tough guy like me to pull my truck over to the side of the highway and weep all over the steering wheel. Something about the simple parting message of The Time Is Here cut me deep as so much loss, personal and otherwise came boiling to the surface. If there’s any justice in the world, they’ll still be singing this song two hundred years from now.
Donna Lynn Caskey has this very quiet but powerful gift to lay on us. This shy “Banjo Gal” as she is known trods the boards of showbiz to help us all feel better and stronger about each other and ourselves. She is talented, that is a fact, and utterly unique. Her playing is strong and her voice warm and clear. Inclusively, she draws us in as confidants. She shows us her own private humanity in all its frailty so that we may see in it our own. I didn’t know I needed this record as much as I did. If you’re unsure in your steps, if you are feeling the pain of loss, the loneliness of modern society, fear of the future, well maybe you need it too.
Donna Lynn is currently pre-selling her new CD through her website. It will be available on CDBaby and all the regular digital outlets as well when it is officially released.
Steve Werner is a biker-sailor-adventurer-folksinger-songwriter who lives aboard his sailboat in Ventura California. He has a long strange history in music. Steve plays shows rarely and, like Nosferatu, only when invited. When not invited, he is perfectly content to sail his boat, ride his motorcycle, party with his friends and live small. You can listen and download his recent album “Just Passing Through” for free at https://stevewerner.bandcamp.com or feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org