Casey Van Beek adds to an already impressive resume with Heaven Forever. With his appropriately-named Tulsa Groove aggregation in tow, the man who’s crossed paths with members of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Leon Russell’s Shelter People fully validates what a wise man once said about how good it is to have history.
Producer/recordist Walt Richmond (who’s worked extensively with Eric Clapton in recent years) collaborates here with the bassist/vocalist/songwriter on a mix of originals and smartly chosen covers such as J.J. Cale’s “Since You Said Goodbye.” And while the pair’s co-writing efforts “Solid Ground” and “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” may not be innovative, they are certainly accessible and infectious, not to mention sure and steady; such qualities are all the more impressive given these recordings were completed with various combinations of musicians, rather than a uniform ensemble in its entirety.
Tasteful solo contributions from guitarists Jim Byfield and Steve Hickerson elevate tunes like “Superstitious” above anything merely derivative of the aforementioned Oklahoma icon (whose “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” Slowhand is still so enamored). And there’s a selfless approach at work here whether it’s the soul/pop balladry of “Waltzin’ With My Shadow,” the understated boogie of “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” or this relaxed, bluesy interpretation of “I Got Loaded:” the collective humility imbues the performances with a deceptively varied touch and feel so that, as with the title tune, most cuts reach full-flower within the economical duration of roughly three minute minutes.
As with its surroundings, the Richmond piano that dominates “Whatcha Think About That?,” as well as the Steve Wilkerson saxophone featured on “If You Don’t Love Me,” moves at an unhurried pace that not only whets the appetite for the next cut, but an immediate replay of Heaven Forever in its entirety. And while hearing the record may move some listeners to wish they’d been present in the studio to savor the friendly air these artists conjured up; the realistic audio clarity sufficiently preserves a ‘you are there’ atmosphere.