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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Standing At The Edge CD Cover
Image © Sony Classical 2004  

(21 February 2004) Every great once in a while an artist appears on the music scene whose sound is entirely original, yet instantly recognizable. Enter Casey Stratton, a young new singer/songwriter whose major label debut, Standing at the Edge, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Producer Patrick Leonard (Madonna, Elton John and Jewel) obviously had wonderful syngery with Casey while working on this album. While Casey is a trained pianist (and the piano is the principal instrument on this album), each track features layers of keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and orchestra giving the album an expansive and soaring quality.

Casey originally hails from Michigan, where his father played in a popular Michigan band. Casey took violin, cello, piano and guitar lessons at an early age. Piano became Casey's instrument of choice. After graduating from Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, Casey pursued a record deal. After years of hard work that brought both successes and failures,he was finally put in touch with Patrick Leonard, who quickly recognized Casey's special talent.

Standing at the Edge, is absolutely brilliant from start to finish. Each song on the album is nuanced and captivating. There are simply no throw-away tracks. The opening track, "For Reasons Unexplained," is a powerful and heart-rending piece. Beginning with a haunting and broken piano rift reminiscent of October Project's "Bury My Lovely," the melody instantly engages the soul. The intensity and profound intimacy of Casey's vocals and lyrics pull so strong on the heartstrings that it is hard to get through the song without shedding tears. When Casey reaches the chorus singing "sorrow comes again for reasons unexplained, I come to you but I am not the same," one becomes acutely aware that Casey is allowing a glimpse into the deepest parts of his own soul.

Several of the songs reflect a folk influence. An example is "The House of Jupiter," which is an upbeat, guitar-led song that never quite looses its touch of bittersweet melancholy. The ethereal, pulsing "Contagious" is darkly romantic, tragic, and sensual. Again, the chorus section of the song shows Casey at his most gifted as a songwriter. With a hook that is undeniably mesmerizing, "contagious" is a fitting adjective to describe this song.

"Blood" is another track that instantly pierces the ears and heart. Combining synthetic flavors, an aggressive percussion line, ripping Bosendorfer piano, and subtly violent lyrical imagery, "Blood" is outright addicting. During the chorus, Casey utilizes interjected and lush harmonies,to punctuate the lyrics. This is one of the most memorable songs this reviewer has heard in years. Trust us--you'll be singing along by the second listen.

In contrast to "Blood" is the quietly devastating "The Dead Sea." With hints of Sarah McLachlan's "Wait," "The Dead Sea" is a song about the increasing distance in and ultimate death of a beloved relationship. In all of its lovelinees, "The Dead Sea" is almost too poignant to hear--as if one is eavesdropping in on a most private and sad scene. "Bloom" is a jaw-dropping orchestral track that is cinematique in scope. What is most impressive is that Casey orchestrated the strings in their entirety.

What makes Casey's music so impactful besides his engaging melodies and lyrics is his voice. A melange of quiet strength, mystery, and a deep, barely concealed vulnerability, listening to Casey sing is like hearing a stranger tell a wonderful tale that you suddenly realize you've had a role in. It is almost unfair to see so much talent emitting from one person.

Casey Stratton has struck a perfect balance between classical edginess and pop "hookiness." Certainly Casey will appeal to fans of Tori Amos (with whom he is often compared). But it is no small compliment to say that Casey's debut is as equally artistic as Tori Amos' work while being even more listenable. It looks as if great things are in store for this formidable artist. Read further reviews, listen to soundbitesand order the album from amazon.comhere.The world will have to stand aside and make room for Casey Stratton.--Justin Elswick

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