Black Music Matters Festival

Case Garrett

Aurora – 2017 (Suitcase)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Case Garrett

To the newbies learning the tropes of country music, it must seem quite the paradox. First, the singer praises the joys of drinking and raising hell. Then - sometimes on the next track - they bemoan the hangovers and ask for help to live out their days with a clear head. It's that short time, but long way, from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Case Garrett has seen both sides. The bottle took the lives of two siblings, and he was well on his way to being the next family casualty. The opening track of "Aurora" ("What Can I Say") celebrates those memorable nights you can't quite remember when "the devil has me on speed-dial." The album immediately goes right into "Long Way Down." Garrett promises his son not to lose himself to self-abuse. Saturday meet Sunday.

While this is a debut, part of its charm is the time it took to percolate. Songwriter and guitarist Garrett is no recent college grad. He's also lived in many pockets of the USA, from Louisiana to New York. Some of that mileage informs the song choices, like the cover of "Call Me the Breeze." That, with a dull vocal performance, is the weak link on the album - but a lot of what makes that song are the blues licks between the lines anyhow. All is forgiven when we get to "The Thought of You." Garrett owns a Nashville Skyline-era Dylan voice. If you can imagine that tone joining forces with a Jimmy Buffett-styled come-on, this laugh-out-loud gem would be the result.

"Aurora" has the stuff to please fans of multiple country subgenres - outlaw, classic or alt. Sometimes labels just get in the way. This record is one of the bigger out-of-nowhere surprises in quite some time. Garrett clearly believes in those lights that shine at night - and "Aurora" does have a friendly glow worth following home.