Rock and roll has deep roots in America. From Elvis Presley to the blues that inspired him, the Americana aesthetic is nearly inseparable from the musical genre. Mark Henry Ham explores these corners in his latest album, Casper, and finds himself traversing a road from hard-rockin’ beats to somber and contemplative ballads. The track that sets the mood for it all is Oh Simone and shows off just how chock-full of personality the album is.
The track explodes after a small percussion stutter, with a smooth transition into some mellow vocals. The guitar goes from explosive to rambling equally as smooth, with the vocals of Mark Henry Ham hitting the high notes during lines such as “she lights up in the room.” The beat of the drums backs it all up with something that’s easy to sway your head to, which gives the entire song a lively energy. This is perfectly reflective of the story of the track, highlighted in lines such as “Simone has always positive energy, Simon has always brought out the best in me,” that lands with a powerful vocal impact after the groovy guitar solo. It’s the perfect intro track that grabs your attention immediately and gets you ready for what’s next.
Casper follows not too long after Oh Simone. The acoustic guitar creates a feeling of longing, especially when backed up by the soft piano. The bluesy charm of the song doesn’t become clear until after the melancholy of the story is told, which gives the track an ebb and flow where the pulse picks up whenever Ham delivers the line “it’s a long, long way to Casper.” While Casper tells a heartfelt story of two complex individuals remembering a more nostalgic time, with a vibe that feels like sometimes you need to figure out who you were to figure out who you are. The title track’s slow, contemplative feel is a stark contrast from the two tracks that came before it, making it easily one of the more interesting tracks on the album.
With a soul-fueled intro, Green Light is another track that explodes onto the scene with some slammin’ drums and a groovy guitar that keeps things on the harder side. It creates a bouncy, ramblin’ beat that picks you up out of your seat and gets you moving, or at least will get you banging your head the pulse of the drums. The vocals are equally as explosive, even during the intro. Lines such as “Let me have my green light, don’t hold on back from me” and “ain’t got no time for this, what’s gonna happen when I don’t show?” are delivered with power that fuels the rest of the hard-rock roots of the track. Green Light definitely has its own personality on the album and gives it a kick when you didn’t know it needed one.
The track starts strong with hard-rockin’ guitar riffs and commanding percussions that quickly mellow out with the bass groove as the lyrics kick in. The beat of the track is solid and props up the lyrics, with stand-out lines such as “and every word that she whispered softly, sweetly, to me left its trace in my mind.” It tells a heartfelt story about living in a dream with a dream girl, giving the lyrics an interesting edge when balanced with the upbeat instrumentals of the track. This gives the track a memorable quality backed with an Americana beat, making it easy to listen to over and over again.
Casper has a lot to love. From the top with Oh Simone, it’s easy to get rolling with what the album has in store. Tracks such as Life is like a Movie, Green Light and It’s A Long Way Home are full of energy that gives the album a rockin’ Americana charm that’s fun and easy to gravitate to; while others such as In The Quiet of the Night and the ending track Wish I Could See You Smile once Again are somber and heartfelt songs that see Mark Henry Ham showing his most vulnerable emotions. Though the theme of nostalgia can be overbearing at times, Casper is definitely right up the alley for any fan of Country/Americana rock, with a few of these tracks definitely ending up on your playlist.