How on Earth did I miss this?

I’m not quite sure how I slept on this release for like a month, but I had no idea that Cassino put out a new record!  They released their second album, Kingprince, on October 28th.  This comes to a pleasant, shocking surprise to me as I’ve been eagerly anticipating it since I got word that they were recording again.  For those of you that have no idea, Cassino is made up of the former singer and guitar player of the now defunct band Northstar.

This kid Mitch Levine took me to see a Northstar show when I was a freshman in college.  It was at this tiny VFW Hall in Windbur, Pennsylvania.  We just drove out of State College for a night to take a road trip and catch this show (we were bored out of our minds and there weren’t many good shows that came to the area).  It was totally worthwhile.  Northstar hooked me.

The next year (my sophomore year at Penn State), Northstar released Pollyanna, which remains one of my favorite albums.  They came back to Penn State and played in the East Halls Commons area (they spent all afternoon drinking in their van and were pretty toasted by the time they performed, but they were still great).

The last time I saw Northstar, I was a senior in college and my friend Chris March and I drove down to Philadelphia to catch them with Say Anything, Hot Rod Circuit and Straylight Run.  I think the whole band was sick, so the singer and lead guitarist performed a very short acoustic set and it was fantastic.  Well later that year, Northstar broke up and out of that came Cassino.

The first album they put out, Sounds of Salvation, was mind-blowing.  One of my favorites of 2007.  The band’s from Alabama, and Nick’s lazy southern drawl seems more suited for americana-style folk music.  It was a seemingly unnatural progression from the swampy emo/punk tunes that Northstar churned out, but it worked really, really well.

So onto the new album, Kingprince… The band re-recorded 3 songs from their previous album (one of which, “The Gin War”, was one of the first Cassino demo songs that circulated after the band’s inception) but they have all been reworked.  “The Ice Factory”, the piano-ballad closer from  Sounds of Salvation, is more uptempo and guitar-based.  I won’t say that it sounds better – but its definitely a treat to hear a song that you know get a whole new treatment like this.

The instrumentation on Kingprince is more varied than its predecessor as well.  More violin, mandolin, Dobro and harmonica – signifying their journey towards a traditional bluegrass sound.  Nick’s vocals sound as fragile and thin as ever, and that’s something I’ve always strangely enjoyed about Northstar and Cassino.  It almost sounds like he’s struggling to get syllables out of his mouth and stay in key.  Don’t ask me why that’s attractive, I’ve just always dug it.

I can tell this is going to be one of those albums I’m going to need to burrow into for a while until I get an accurate perception of it… And I’ve already lost a month.  It’s safe to say though that after a few listens, this is already climbing into my top 10 albums of 2009.  Here’s the band’s new video for their first single, “Cannonball”.


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