Throughout the history of American music, there are several big names and bands you can point to as the greatest influences on not just music from certain periods, but really all of music. One of the bands you can point to is the Eagles and its founding member Don Henley. They were one of the biggest bands in the world in the 1970s and one of the most recognizable rock acts ever. They’ve racked up numerous hits, awards, accolades and I’m pretty sure everyone who has ever listened to music has heard at least one Eagles’ song in their lifetime. Henley was a founding member as I said above and he not only attained great success with the Eagles, but with his own solo career. Some of his biggest hits were “The Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance.” To give you an idea of the success of Henley, back in 2012 he was the fourth wealthiest drummer in the world, only trailing Ringo Starr, Phil Collins and Dave Grohl. Quite a list, huh?
Now after years of making rock hits, Henley is trying his hand at country music. Of course one of the ongoing themes in country music in 2015 is rockers and pop artists trying their hand at the genre. Amongst them are Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, Poison singer Bret Michaels and some old, washed up has-beens from 90s pop music that call themselves Uncle Ezra Ray. The big difference between Henley and these cast of characters is that I believe Henley can make great country music and truly has his heart in it. The other artists appear to be in it only for the money and their last chance of 15 minutes in the spotlight. Henley didn’t need to make a country album, as he has plenty of money and is still touring with the Eagles. He wanted to make a country album because he actually wants to do it. This is what he told Rolling Stone about his new album Cass County, set to come out this fall:
“I’m associated with California a lot because of that other band that I play in, but I really and truly was born and raised in Cass County, Texas. I’m a Southerner and a Texan. I have ancestors in Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. So this is a natural progression for me. It’s not me trying to do the ‘Don Henley country album.’ It’s who I am and where I come from.”
So essentially Henley feels like this is a natural progression in his career and not something outside of his comfort zone. It sounds like something he’s been thinking about doing for years. This is why I’m giving him a legitimate chance with his country music and not those other artists. His album is coming out on September 25 and features a big cast of notable names. So we have to wait a while for that, but luckily we get an early taste of it as Henley just released the first single from it, titled “That Old Flame.”
The song is about a man who receives a message from an old friend who wanted to get back in touch. The man wonders what this woman wants after losing touch for so many years. He seems to think she wants to rekindle a lost flame, but he knows there is danger of getting burned in doing this. She knows this too and only wanted to reach out to let him know that she’s doing fine and to just reconnect with an old friend. Both wonder whether they miss each other or just their lost days of youth. It’s a well-written song that does a good job telling the story of long-lost friends and their days of romance long behind them. Henley’s voice sounds fantastic, even in his older age and doesn’t sound worn down at all. He’s joined on the song by Martina McBride, who always has and always will have a great voice. McBride and Henley’s voices are cohesive and sound good together throughout the song.
The only quibbles I have with this song are some of the production and instrumentation choices. Towards the beginning of the song I would have had more acoustic guitar and no synth guitar. It also feels like the drums are dominating the sound too much. I just felt like this set the wrong tone upfront with a country song and felt more like an opener for a rock song. Luckily, the instrumentation gets better throughout the rest of the song. “That Old Flame” could have been a little better, but overall is a solid song. As I said both Henley and McBride both sound great and the lyrics are well-written. It’s a song worth checking out and makes me look forward to hearing more from Henley. If this is reflective of what Cass County has to offer, then we could be in for a very good album.