From Casey James

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It’s not often that the blues gets summarized with a happy platitude, but when Casey James inserted that phrase into “Hard Times, Heartaches & Scars,” it was a hard-won truth. James is familiar to many as a finalist on season 9 of American Idol, and familiar to still more as a country artist who notched a Top 15 single with “Crying On A Suitcase.”

But in Strip It Down, James comes into his own by following a simple plan: being himself. Instead of following the expectations of TV producers or the game plan of a well-oiled record company, James collected 13 songs he’d written or co-written (plus a soulful take on Little Willie’s John’s “Need Your Love So Bad”), holed up in a Nashville studio with a trim, crackerjack band and hammered out the bulk of the album in a scant four days.