There is almost no percussion in the new Casey Ahern single, “Just a Dance,” but that definitely doesn’t mean that there isn’t a seriously intoxicating rhythm for all who appreciate country ballads to sync up with. Through a slow-churning strum of an acoustic guitar and strands of a gorgeous fiddle harmony, Ahern finds a beat to serve as a canvas for her portrait of unsatisfied romantic desires in “Just a Dance,” and despite the song’s short running time, brings everyone to the edge of their seats waiting – and wondering – what sort of divine decadence will come from her moniker next.
The yearning in this song is derived almost exclusively from the aforementioned fiddling, which is undeniably the most somber element in the entirety of the track. It doesn’t become so overwhelming in tone that we lose touch with the warmth of the understated melodies, but I think Ahern wanted for us to feel a little uneasy in the climb towards the hook. This affords her some extra room to lay down a relaxing refrain later on in the song, and had it not been prefaced with such angst, I’m not sure that “Just a Dance” would be the engaging masterpiece it is today.
This isn’t a total dirge of a country song; for the most part, Ahern sets fine example of how to balance out the dark with the light here, mostly via her velvety vocals. There’s an optimistic energy underneath all of the meditative, almost dreamlike lyricism, and it’s perhaps what prevents “Just a Dance” from turning into a depressing elegy designed to lament a love that could have been but never was. That angle has been pretty well covered by every country artist in the last half-century, thus making this a really interesting take on a somewhat familiar style of songwriting.
A well done mix can sometimes mean the difference between becoming a star and fizzling out, and what I hear in “Just a Dance” is unquestionably in the top tier for its particular class. It wasn’t crafted for the casual pop fan, but hardcore country music audiences will likely be as swept away by the detail here as I was. There are so many intricate dimensions to the very structure of the string parts that, were any genuine connoisseurs interested, they could spend a lot of time picking apart every layer one by one and still have some stately lyrical ground left to cover.
Casey Ahern has unleashed yet another sparkling new single in “Just a Dance,” and it’s a song that I would deem to be a bar-raiser for the contemporary Nashville underground as we look to 2020 and beyond. She’s not playing for anyone but herself in this single, and rather than this producing self-indulgent results that would interest most of us only marginally, she spits out a track that sound personal, real and tangible to anyone who has felt the sting of heartbreak before. I know that Ahern has my vote for breakout artist of the season, and I doubt that I’m the only one saying so this September.
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