To help launch her career internationally, North County blues belter Casey Hensley turned to Vizztone Records’ more streamlined approach to market her first album, Casey Hensley Live, featuring Laura Chavez, released three weeks ago.
The Casey Hensley Band, "Whole Lotta Love," Casbah, 8/05/17
“This model works better,” says Boston-based Richard Rosenblatt, one of the three owners of Vizztone. “The old model doesn’t work anymore.”
Rosenblatt is using the same M.O. that he says has worked for 100 albums Vizztone has put out over ten years. He says his previous label, Tone-Cool Records, used the traditional manner in which the label would get involved in recording and often cover manufacturing expenses. “The artists would owe us money and we’d have to recoup our expenses first before the artists made any money.”
All Vizztone artists are responsible for their own recording and pressing. “We only focus on distribution, promotion, and publicity.” Rosenblatt says, unlike other labels, Vizztone does not get involved in the sometimes-messy arrangements where labels own the master recording or songwriting rights.
“It could lead to bad feelings. A lot of people want to own their own records.”
Rosenblatt says Vizztone relies on North Carolina’s Redeye Distribution for worldwide distribution.
Hensley admits blues is not usually part of mainstream pop. But she says her career is buoyed by a close-knit blues community where blues men and women take care of their own. “Everybody is so supportive of each other.”
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The Vizztone/Hensley arrangement was helped along because Hensley’s drummer/life partner Evan Yearsley knew Vizztone co-owner “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, a bluesy guitarist who had long been connected with Yearsley’s mom, Candye Kane, who died last year. The album was anchored by the guitar cred of Laura Chavez, who played on Kane’s last studio album, 2013’s Comin’ Out Swingin’. And the album was recorded live in one take at Thomas Yearsley’s Thunderbird Analog Recording Studios in Oceanside last December (Thomas is Evan’s dad and Candye’s ex).
“If you’re good to the blues, the blues will be good to you,” says Casey, 25. “It’s like one big family.”
Although Rosenblatt’s Tone-Cool earned a gold record for sales of 500,000 for a Susan Tedeschi record, he says it’s rare that a modern blues record reaches 50,000. “These days, 20,000 is a very respectable number.”
This year the Casey Hensley Band played before thousands at Orange County’s Doheny Blues Festival and the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas. “People are hungry for something real,” she says. “A lot of people my age want to hear real songs that touch them played by real instruments.”