Track listing: The Best Years, Caught, Generations, Love Is Pain, Carry Me Away, Wash Me, Another Old Day, New World, Where Have You Been, Gonna Take A While, Hide My HeartBryan Gorsira has written songs for decades, and twelve of them from his recent and distant past comprise his latest effort, The Best Years. The album ranges as greatly in style as it does in date-of-composition, including aspects of singer/songwriter sentimentality, backwoods zydeco, boogie woogie, and even a diversion into prog rock balladeering.
The album begins delightfully with its title track, a dedication to his wife and children that clarifies just which of his years have been the best. With a lyrical simplicity and sincerity reminiscent of Randy Travis' "Forever And Ever Amen," Gorsira's mid-tempo tribute features sparse instrumentation accented nicely by violin and backing vocals. Among the various genres tapped into throughout the album, this track hints that Gorsira's later-in-life singer/songwriter explorations yield his best writing.
"Caught," with a notably more ominous minor-keyed tone, introduces female lead and harmony vocals by Dana Cooper and Julie Forester. Melodically, "Love Is Pain" takes on a Neil Young "Heart Of Gold" feel, complete with a dynamic harmonica lead. "Carry Me Away" shifts to a boogie woogie piano-centered shuffle, followed by a zydeco-influenced gospel redemption song, "Wash Me." The genre-shifting goes into high gear with the mysterious phaser-heavy "Another Old Day," with its alternating electric guitar and flute leads harkening to a 70's progressive rock influence.
Gorsira hits his stride in The Best Years with the album's final five songs. With more sparse instrumentation, his lyrics become the focus. His stories of everyday emotions are certainly endearing and compelling aspects of his writing: "Give me a day and a bottle of wine / and the sun shinin' sweet / an open field with flowers / and you and I'm complete." But it is his love for his wife and children that comes across strongest and most genuine, and accordingly has become his most convincing songwriting inspiration. "I'm so glad you're here with me / I'm glad she dropped into our lives / stay a while and we will see / what kind of family we can be."
The Best Years is an enjoyable listen, even with its significant style shifts and genre hops. Though I do not have dates of each song's penning, the album gives the impression that Gorsira's songwriting strengthened after a familial infusion of strong, heartfelt emotions. And whereas this album combines songs old and new, resulting in some inconsistencies, Bryan Gorsira's best album is very likely yet-to-come, once each and every lyric, chord, and note are drawn from the same well of inspiration.