From the first track, a cover of singer/songwriter Will Hoge’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” to the title track, the Mike Eli and James Young-penned “Life At Best” what I hear over the course of this album is a different band than I previously heard on other records. And different is good for while the band doesn’t run from the mainstream, they’re most certainly doing their own thing.
And it works.
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” is such a no-brainer of a song for Eli Young Band or any band for that matter that it’s amazing that the song (which Hoge co-wrote with EMI Nashville artist Eric Paslay), with such a strong reminder to follow your dreams at any cost, wasn’t cut by any country artists before now.
Curb artist Lee Brice and ace songwriter Liz Rose are the team behind “Crazy Girl” and while I can picture Lee singing this song, Mike Eli really puts forth the emotion of a man madly in love with the titular girl. “On My Way” is a hopeful tune that finds a down on his luck guy who finds a girl who manages to make a guy feel better whenever she’s around him.
Like “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” “Skeletons” has a sound of a hit song, a type of song that typified great rock records of days gone by. Written by Mike Eli, James Young and ace songwriter Sean McConnell, the song tells a tale about everyone in the world, about those things you’re willing to share and those things you’d rather not tell anyone but the closest of confidants.
If you’re looking for a couple no-doubt-about-it hits on the record, they’re back-to-back on tracks six and seven. “I Love You” and “The Fight” are the tunes here and both are gigantic tunes for different reasons. “I Love You” manages to use analogies for passion as a way to convey a proposal of epic proportions with a chorus of only three words: I love you. “The Fight” is the kind of universal song about how much hard work goes into making your dreams come true, no matter what they are. And as much as I’d love to have “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” the band’s next single, I honestly think now that “The Fight” should be the follow-up single to “Crazy Girl” as it can be applied to any situation in anyone’s life, be it the unexpected fight with grief and regret over the loss of a child, a fight with cancer, a relationship, or a job.
If people are wondering where the Texas Country is in the album, it’s on songs like “Every Other Memory,” “My Old Man’s Son,” and “War On A Desperate Man.” Each of these songs are singer/songwriter types of tunes and aren’t exactly what commonly comes from Nashville labels nowadays (though they should be). The latter song features a fantastic, nuanced vocal from Mike Eli.
“Recover” has a moody, rocking melody and a hopeful lyric about remaining optimistic about life while “Say Goodnight” says something about being truly in love with someone that feels like it’s ready for an epic scene of a film. There’s something about “How Quickly You Forget” that recalls classic songs from the 1980s and 1990s with call-and-response parts in the verses and an insanely catchy, vibe-y feel to the melody. If the band and the label were feeling adventurous they could release this tune to radio, otherwise it’ll make for a fun song for the middle of Eli Young Band’s dynamic stage show.
Working with Mike Wrucke once again, Eli Young Band has certainly found their groove as a band and with a sound that makes them easy to identify in the mainstream. Like Zac Brown Band and Sugarland, Eli Young Band writes and records tunes that are uniquely them and that allows them to shape songs that are vibrant and alive.
This is one of the best records of 2011.