Chris McCooey can surely write a song. He can also hold an audience. In the EP Better Days, McCooey, aligned with a pair of seasoned musicians in Max Butler (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Thomas deBourbon, inject the culture, tones and aspirations of The Bay Area. California’s sound, which can range from The Beach Boys’ summer-sun-kissed-pop harmonies to the fullness and jamming of the Grateful Dead, as well as the punk all stars in Green Day (think “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, somehow melts its way into the stylings on Better Days. McCooey reminds the listener of the world’s beauty, as well as its human anxieties. He makes it sound so easy and you want to keep revisiting these open-diary entries. All six of them.
McCooey sets the tone early with the title-track opener. As a listener, you feel the energy in his voice, the urgency to listen to what he’s saying. Watching a new generation rise, McCooey sings, as if he’s proud and embolden. I felt like this song is about hope and the idea of not giving up and helping your fellow man. At a time when all seems to be doom and gloom, “Better Days” has that sliver of hope and light-the-way attitude.
“The Man I Could Not Be” and “Yonder” continue the Americana, amber-esque palette. I think the pictures that McCooey paints in these songs are one of reflection and brutal honesty. His voice is more confident in these songs. As the songs add up, so does the profoundness of his lyrics. You really get a sense of who he is and how he wants to connect with his audience. I don’t think these are just words on a page to him – I felt like he’s labored over them. Honed and honored them.
“Fade To Black” and “We Found Love” are also strong hits. In “We Found Love”, he takes on the role of the concert goer and the connection they have with both the building or theatre and the fellow-audience members. I thought the song had a solid base, a moving sound that kept the perfect up-tempo and beat to McCooey’s optimistic vocals. Where the lost get found, he sings. Who hasn’t felt like a misfit and once a concert starts, they feel as one with the community? This song definitely brought a smile to my face.
Finally, “When This Is Over” is a letter to all those that were struggling during the pandemic and time of lockdowns. It’s a fine appeal to the listener that craves solid guitar, drum and vocal work packaged in an Americana-roots emblem. McCooey is sensitive to the listener and he finds a way to make them feel like he’s only singing to them. Dream deep and keep steady, he sings. It’s lines like this that make me understand just why these songs are so worthy of being heard over and over again. No bells and whistles here – it’s all about the music and the song when it comes to Better Days.
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