Is it possible to know an artist really truly in just six songs? I think that’s entirely the case in the new EP Better Days from California Bay Area’s Chris McCooey. Parlaying the roots-Americana sound that can be found in the 70s rockers like The Eagles and even James Taylor, McCooey’s enviable brand of songwriting is a call back to those stylings, but he promptly makes it his own. Along for the ride and contributing greatly to the fulfilling sounds are guitarist Max Butler and multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Thomas deBourbon. Once you get to know him, you will surely like him – McCooey is fantastic.
All my hopes inhabit that moment, McCooey sings in “Better Days”. It’s the first song, and it’s clear why it’s also the title track. I felt like this song was the last one recorded – it’s that song that just feels like he’s put a lot of sweat equity into the vocals and painted over the lyrics. Its theme is like that final plea, that moment when the tide turns and you get to really see that the world is going to be okay. I can’t help but think of the pandemic in this song (as well as the closer “When This Is Over”). McCooey never really comes out and says it, but he balances what’s happening in the world and pairs it down to a relationship or a personal point-of-view. When you hear this song, you might recall a bit of Jack Johnson or even Counting Crows.
The second song, “The Man I Could Not Be” grabbed my attention all the same. McCooey puts forth a wonderful storyline- and it feels very paternal. I’m not sure if he’s a father in real life, but I loved the relationship this song explores. I thought it could also be about what his own father shared with him and he puts it to song. Song three, “Yonder” became my ‘go-to song’ of the collection. Something wondrous happens between the quirky background and McCooey’s vocals. I felt like this song really stood out because it followed a different path, a different song arrangement. It’s not that the others don’t get me going, but “Yonder” had the makings of something really spectacular happening within the keys’ walls and jumpy beats.
“Fade To Black” is slower and contemplates all the band news in the world happening. I liked this song by McCooey. As an artist he really runs the gamut with these thoughts – and I found that very reflective of where we are at this point of time. He substitutes the pop rock riffs with a meandering violin in this track. It’s outstanding. Then, in “We Found Love” he cranks it up again, and a rowdy kick drum and cymbals fill the space. Curious and excited and mostly out of place, he sings about concert crowds. “When This Is Over” calls on audiences to come together and wrap up the EP. It’s a great bookend with “Better Days” and satisfies even the most cynic of ‘em all.
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