So who will be in the Casey James Band?
There has been no information disseminated as to the composition of the band to date. Fans have wondered, will the group continue to be a trio? That seems highly unlikely. While a trio is the perfect size for a blues band, Billy explained that the size of the band was more a function of not finding another reliable guitarist than anything else. So they don’t seem to be locked into a three-person format. But, whatever its size, will it include the same original members?
While there has been no formal announcement as to who will be part of the Casey James Band, it would be a surprise if BC were not standing next to his brother, bass in hand, as he was this past May at Casey's homecoming visit to the Keys Lounge.
|Casey James and BC James at the Keys Lounge|
Billy had picked up the bass before Casey even started playing guitar. He was about 17 at the time, Casey would have been 10 or so. Billy had started out playing the guitar, but soon switched instruments. Back then, nearly everyone BC knew was playing guitar -- family members and friends from school -- and it seemed to him that if he played bass he could play with everyone.
Because of their nearly seven-year age difference, for a while he “was waiting for Brother” to be old enough to start playing with him. At first, they played with their mother, Debra "Bybee" James, playing mostly folk music. Eventually, the two set out to form a band where they could play the type of music they wanted, "mostly blues, classic rock, some country," music with a harder edge. Finding a good drummer was hard, but keeping one proved even harder.
Eventually they found a drummer, Bryan Lepard, and they recorded a few songs under the name Casey James and Crossover. BC wrote or co-wrote about half the songs they recorded. Their sound was an amalgamation of Texas blues, rock and country, not surprising for a band of brothers whose two main musical influences growing up were bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan and country’s Merle Haggard.
Billy counts among his biggest influences on the bass Stevie Ray Vaughan’s bassist Tommy Shannon. “He played with everybody. He’s a bad man,” joked Billy. “That’s who I took my bass stylings after. “ Billy is also influence by bassists Noel Redding, from Hendrix’s band, and John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin. And he continues to be influenced by and learn from other bassists. “Recently, I’ve discovered, through Casey, Pino Palladino. He is like Tommy Shannon but way more technical. He played with John Mayer, he’s played with everybody. He has that James Jamerson feel, that old Motown sound - funky without having to do that slap and pop.” I didn't know what "slap and pop" was, but BC is a patient tutor and talked me through a brief history of the various styles of bass playing.
Since he and Casey were usually in a trio (first with Lepard, later with their current drummer McCann), BC studied the techniques used by Shannon and Redding who each played in a similar musical format. As BC explained it, “From them, I learned how to fill space.” In the rare occasion when they had an extra guitarist sit in, BC enjoyed getting to do something a little extra like John Paul Jones or the bassists in Lynyrd Skynyrd or Black Sabbath. “Doing leads on the bass, getting to cut loose. You’re not so bound to just carry the rhythm, you can do more” when there are more musicians playing together.
But keeping the rhythm, being solid, is what BC has done for Casey since they started playing together. I asked Billy if he’s ever been part of another band, and he said quite emphatically now. Billy has only ever wanted to play with his brother. “I don’t want to play with anyone else. There’s no one else on planet earth I want to play with. Basically, I just had to wait for him. Being a bass player, I’ve had lots of offers for jobs, but I didn’t want to play with anyone else.”
In one of our first conversations, BC explained his role as Casey’s bassist. “My whole point in being is to provide Casey with a bigger launching pad in order to make him sound better. To fill as much of the back space as I can.” Then, he added a line that has stuck with me ever since as reflective of their strong bond both as bandmates and as brothers, “That’s why I’m sucking air here.”