Alone among the anonymous "American Idol" hopefuls at the beginning of season ten, Casey Abrams cut somewhat of a memorable figure -- possibly because he had the gumption to kiss judge Jennifer Lopez, possibly because behind his scruffy, friendly, hippie demeanor hid an old-fashioned, jazzy, blue-eyed soul singer. The latter is naturally emphasized on his 2012 eponymous debut for Concord Records, an album produced by "American Idol"'s longest-serving judge, Randy Jackson. Abrams sings with a smile, never letting a grey cloud darken his blue sky --an attitude that's easier to adopt if you avoid sad songs, which he does throughout this sunny, mellow affair. It's all love songs and paeans to the wonders of a simple life, whether it's embracing a "Great Bright Morning" or eating mangos in a mango tree. Modern-day hippie that he is, Abrams peppers his cheerful ditties with throwaway references to DVRs and Wi-Fi while he eases himself into the radio-ready waters of "Get Out" and adopts a bit of co-writer Jason Mraz's sing-songy folkie jazz, but this record still feels like a wannabe throwback to the '70s, right down to the elastic blues groove of "Blame It on Me," the funkiest thing here. Over the course of an LP, what was distinctive about Abrams on "AmIdol" -- all the good cheer, the jazzy runs and scats, the way he leans just a little too hard into his phrases whenever he wants to seem soulful -- turn grating, but only mildly so: it's all a bit too sweet and dippy but it's hard to get mad at the amiable Abrams. It'd be like getting angry at a puppy that only wants to get pets.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi