Life At Best
Following up their breakthrough album Jet Black & Jealous, Eli Young Band keep the emphasis on jangling guitar riffs and folk-rocking melodies, reaching back to the heyday of Petty and Mellencamp rather than Nashville-style country for inspiration. Lead singer Mike Eli possesses an aching Everyman sort of vocal that makes his odes to love, fidelity and fulfillment sound credible. Life At Best’s opening and closing tracks — “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and the title tune — capture a sense of idealism that frames the album as a whole. Love songs like “Crazy Girl” and “Every Other Memory” carry a bittersweet edge, while “Skeletons” looks back on past mistakes with a tinge of regret. A festive tropical rhythm (accented with keening pedal steel guitar) gives “On My Way” an uplifting tone. Among the more countrified moments is “My Old Man’s Son,” a salute to family heritage driven by acoustic guitar and brushed drums. Life At Best avoids sonic frills or faddish concessions — this is honest American heartland music, rooted in reality while refusing to surrender to despair.