[9 August 2007]
The spirit of the city street is alive and well on Casey Neill’s latest release, Brooklyn Bridge. Besides the geographical references sprinkled throughout Neill’s work (with songs named “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Philadelphia Girl” as well as mentions of specific names of streets and landmarks, etc.), the Portland singer-songwriter furthers a civic vibe in several ways. Neill’s songs find their identity in expressing the kinship and shared experiences common to sojourners and artists everywhere, their sounds and subjects painting him as one well versed in the dynamics of community. By incorporating elements of folk, rock, punk and Celtic music into his sound, Neill communicates in a plain-spoken language with appeal to those with a variety of musical interests. Though not on par with the songwriters who have influenced him so clearly, Neill comes across as a poor man’s blend of Strummer, Springsteen and Van Morrison. The playing and production on Brooklyn Bridge displays that the attitudes of Neill’s art are backed up by his actions; the many contributors who aid Neill on the project include Erin McKeown, The Decemberists’ Jennie Conlee, John Wesley Harding and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Yayhoos). Standout moments include the gentle tones found on the title track, the enthusiastic “We Are the City” and the aptly named “Beautiful Night”, a tale of discovering the joy to be found in little things. Occasionally, Neill forgets his limits and overreaches on tracks like “Throw Me to the Dogs” but mostly, Brooklyn Bridge is a pleasing listen marked by its warmth and spirit.