The week of the CMA Music Festival brings a wide variety of public figures to Nashville. One of the biggest sightings in town on Thursday was the legendary Don Henley, who stopped by Nashville’s Ruby to give invited guests a first listen to some of the tracks to his upcoming star-studded album Cass County.
Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert each lend their distinctive vocals to “Bramble Rose,” a song that Henley told interviewer Beverly Keel that he had been a fan of since he had heard Tift Merritt’s version in the early 2000s.
Another powerhouse female vocalist lending her voice to the project is Martina McBride, who guests on the uptempo “That Old Flame.” one of the most uptempo songs of the seven that were played. Henley said that he has always been a fan of her voice, and was glad to have her on the project.
Perhaps the biggest reception of the preview tracks was for his cover of “When I Stop Dreaming.” Originally a hit for The Louvin Brothers, Henley was joined by Country Music Hall of Fame member Dolly Parton on the track. Of the collaboration, he remarked that Parton recalled performing the song with Porter Wagoner during their days together.
Any Don Henley country-oriented project would not be complete without the vocals of Trisha Yearwood. The two, who have collaborated in the past on her singles “Walkaway Joe” (1992) and “Inside Out” (2001), were reunited on the moving “Words Can Break Your Heart.” Henley took time to praise Yearwood’s workman-like approach when discussing the song.
The album also features guest appearances from Merle Haggard and Vince Gill, who takes the Don Rich part on a cut that Henley says was inspired for his love of the music of Buck Owens — a “fellow Texan,” as the singer noted.
During the interview, which followed the preview, Henley said that he grew up in the Lone Star State inspired by the sounds of country music on The Louisiana Hayride on KWKH in Shreveport, as well as the varied musical offerings of WNOE in New Orleans. Perhaps the biggest crowd reaction of the afternoon came when Keel asked him what he wanted people to know most about the album. Thinking for a moment, he quipped “That it’s out,” to thunderous applause.
Cass County will be released later this year. Though it’s his most country-influenced release to date, he’s enjoyed some success in the format before. In addition to the collaborations with Yearwood, he has also appeared on the country charts with Kenny Rogers (who produced a pre-Eagles band Henley was in called Shiloh) with “Calling Me,” and in 2000, he made his only solo appearance on the charts with “For My Wedding,” which peaked at No. 61. That track was from Inside Job, his most recent album.