“Just a Dance,” the new release from Casey Ahern, starts off simply enough with an acoustic guitar and a rustic country grit that will quickly meet its match in Ahern’s surreal singing voice. No more than fifteen seconds go by before she begins her serenade, inserting a dash of homespun candor against the ambient background. Her voice is stained with hesitation, but she doesn’t seem reticent to tell us how she’s feeling in “Just a Dance” – with each verse, she gives us another piece of the puzzle until slowly we start to form a picture window into the scene she’s setting for us. Two individuals are destined to share a moment shrouded in lust and lavish grooves, but how long their chemistry will last is anyone’s guess.

The second stanza has more swing than the first, but Ahern is still taking it slow. Her vocal starts to get a little more self-assured, her emissions become a little more direct and open, and the backing band begins to find the groove that was mostly missing at the beginning of the song. Ahern is met with a searing fiddle’s cries as this section of verses transitions into the refreshing refrain, and all at once they become engrained with one another in a singular force to be reckoned with. Their overlap is so distinguished and yet so completely seamless that it’s hard to tell where one side of the harmony starts and the other ends. It’s beautiful, bold and as colored by emotion as it is by poetic varnish.

We witness as the strings ebb and flow around Casey Ahern’s crooning, but never do they come even remotely close to eclipsing her presence in this track. She’s not even giving us the full scope of what she can do with her voice, yet she’s somehow turning this country ballad into an anthem in less than one minute’s time. It’s not exotic in nature, but there’s something unique and definitively anti-mainstream about this song, and after the first time that I sat down with it to give Ahern’s talent my complete and undivided attention, I couldn’t help but wonder where this girl has been, and more pressingly, how she’s stayed out of the international spotlight for as long as she has now.

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Ahern brings us full-circle in “Just a Dance” with one final, subtle verse that suddenly disappears into the darkness as if to remind us of just how short life, and true love, can be. Categorizing it as a country song would seem, to me at least, a little dismissive of just how versatile its construction is, while calling it a folk/pop number would be flat-out inaccurate by any critical standard. The bottom line? Trying to break down the music of an artist like Casey Ahern is no easy task, not because of her erratic songwriting style, but more appropriately, because of her unending accessibility as a performer. You don’t have to be the world’s biggest country music supporter to dig her sound, and I found out firsthand how awesome a talent she really has through “Just a Dance.”

Garth Thomas