“The album’s best — and most eerie — moment, comes in ‘Twelve-Bar Blues,’ when Abrams beautifully picks the guitar and, in a wholesome voice reminiscent of James Taylor, sings, ‘Lock the guns up tonight / Tell the sheriff to wait by the phone / Tonight the blood will flow like wine / If I find her on the streets alone.’ Take that, William Faulkner.” —Michael Franco, PopMatters
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based songwriter Casey Abrams is a well-heeled traditionalist with an ear for reinvention. Raised on a diet of Leo Kottke, Hoagy Carmichael, and Ry Cooder, he has developed a style reminiscent of the finest traditional music, yet distinctive in its own right. His fresh take on American forms will leave you wondering why singer-songwriters toil over anything else.
Abrams’ Like a Mirror is reverent and contemporary, at once in touch with tradition and aware of its surroundings. Influenced by the likes of Don McLean, Spider John Koerner, and Leon Redbone, Abrams thinks for himself while he genuflects, crafting original songs on traditional themes. Like Beck and Iron & Wine, he has plenty of pulp for the presses, and translates old parchments into today’s breaking news.
Abrams plays what he calls “tramp art music,” melding the folkier leanings of Paul Simon, Warren Zevon, and Randy Newman with hints of jazz and progressive rock. This synthesis evokes southern-gothic Americana while liberally quoting the best of Tin Pan Alley, and is sweetened by Abrams’ smooth vocals and a unique, finger-picked guitar style that recalls folk, ragtime, and country blues. Despite his old-style musical background, Abrams creates a sound that is thoroughly modern, a treat for fans of trad iconoclasts like Jeff Buckley and M. Ward.
Bookended by Abrams’ haunting “Twelve-Bar Blues,” Like a Mirror maps the mind of a protagonist who has made more than his share of wrong turns in life. Ruminating in moody vignettes, he comes to a crossroads where he must decide whether or not to atone for his mistakes. From the chilling “Ghost Story” to the pivotal “My Doppelganger” to the playfully Dylanesque “The Times They Have a-Changed,” Abrams builds tension with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. Virtuosity meets spontaneity in a record that is at once refined and natural.