In these most trying of times, it’s nice to have a single or even a collection of songs that inspire feeling good about life again, even when it’s as shaky and unstable as we could’ve ever feared it to be. I recently found my own soundtrack of this nature in the brand new EP He Was Summer from rising country-pop star Casey Ahern. Ahern is a California born and bred singer/songwriter whose country drawl is unmistakable once you’ve heard it for the first time. Her vocal is steeped in the beloved Bakersfield identity of classic California country crooners, but it isn’t designed as a throwback to the good ol’ days of vinyl and pure analogue audio. Songs like “Indio” and “He Was Summer” itself are driven by a pop-friendly construction that doesn’t have any room for the miniscule rants and contrived politicism of modern country singles – they instead create a foundation of highbrow rhythms that are tempered under the weight of Ahern’s smoky voice. Casey Ahern is the real deal, and in these four songs she gives us plenty of reasons to make her moniker a permanent fixture in the new country scene.
The thin line between folk and country music is straddled quite dexterously by Ahern in the songs “Take Me by the Hand” and “Like I Do,” which break out of their pop-centric framework with searing vocals and sizzling lyrics to match. The singer channels Joni Mitchell in certain spots, particularly in “Like I Do,” and though the music is indelibly countrified, it’s a far cry from the inauthentic twang so typically found on the Billboard Country Charts today.
Every song here is based on an earnest admission from our lead singer, who despite putting up a jovial front has a lot of deeper emotions present in this material that music enthusiasts could spend hours picking apart. She’s no one-trick pony, and my gut tells me that this is only the tip of the iceberg relevant to what she’s going to be sharing with us in future releases. This is, after all, just a four song EP – though it is a massively impactful one.
In more ways than you’d expect, He Was Summer is just the shot of adrenaline that country music needed to jump-start 2019, and Casey Ahern is the ultimate singer/songwriter to champion its honest virtues. I cannot wait to see Ahern live at some point in her career, because if even a fraction of the immense knack for rhythm and harmony that she boasts on this record is present in her stage show, it could make for the performance of a lifetime. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about new music, and Ahern’s sound is one of the more significant entries that we’ve seen in a burgeoning generation of country singers who reject the status quo of their forerunners. She’s blazing a trail of her own before our very ears, and He Was Summer is her way of saying hello to a world she clearly plans on taking over.