North Carolina singer-songwriter Casey Noel demonstrates her ability to navigate the various facets of Americana music, while simultaneously conveying narratives that provoke deeply embedded emotions lingering just below the surface on her debut EP, Not Just Pretty Words. The title of the EP confirms my own personal sentiment that the songs contained have the power to dig deep into the recesses of the human spirit and cull out feelings of melancholy that were long thought forgotten, revealing the intricacy of the words enclosed within. The six-song EP gets off to a rollicking start with the track “The Hang Up,” which features Mason Via on electric guitar. “The Hang Up” details the lingering feelings that one wishes they could shed after the dismantling of a relationship. Noel uses a beautiful example of lyrical personification by comparing her situation of being hung up on someone to how the morning dew clings to a blade of grass. It is a strong opening number and sets the stage for the central thread that weaves through the EP in which Noel analyses and explores the complexity of emotions surrounding relationships.
The title track clocks in as the second song on the EP with the mandolin driven number, “Pretty Words.” In the song Noel acts as a form of counsel as she gives advice to young women, telling them not to fall for pretty words without action to prove their validity. She warns against making constant excuses for the men in their lives and divulges that one day someone better will come along. The song feels extremely fitting following “The Hang Up,” because it can almost be interpreted that the narrator giving advice could be drawing from the experience that was encapsulated in the first track. The mandolin on the track provided by Mason Via lends the song to a folky/bluegrass kind of feel that works extremely well with Noel’s distinctive vocal style.
“Marsh Girl” serves as a tribute to Delia Owens’ 2018 novel Where the Crawdad Sings that takes place in the marshlands of North Carolina. The song relays the story of a young girl who is alienated by her enabling mother and alcoholic father, and in retaliation clings to the landscape of her upbringing for love and support. The song stands as a personal favorite as its southern gothic narrative elicits a foreboding sense of longing, apprehension, and hope in the face of uncertainty. The song is brought to life with the help of a weeping electric guitar provided by Josh Shelton and bowed bass by Pat Lawrence.
“Prove Me Wrong” and “You and Me” examine the durability of relationships by tackling the bumps in the road and celebrating the state of unending desire. The latter features Libby Rodenbough, from the highly acclaimed group Mipso, singing harmony and playing fiddle which mixes beautifully with Noel’s own playing and singing. The final song on the EP, “Seasons,” is a fitting conclusion to such a collection for it exhibits the notion that life is full of learning experiences, especially through the interpersonal relationships we endure, and that we will ultimately be better off for having borne the hardships of our own life’s trajectory. Not Just Pretty Words speaks to me on a multitude of levels and it most certainly comes through on every single track that Casey Noel has been traversing the various seasons of her own life. I truly believe we are better off that she has decided to share a little piece of her own trajectory with us.
Casey Noel – Not Just Pretty Words (2020)
- The Hang Up
- Pretty Words
- Marsh Girl
- Prove Me Wrong
- You and Me