Although Rich McCulley’s music is probably a bit too simple and formulaic to be well-received by critics, it’s not too simple to be full of emotion, thoughtful lyrics, and polished musicianship. Nearly all of the songs have a trademark catchiness that makes them TV- and radio-friendly. Although produced in LA, the music has a hint of country, recalling bands like Guster and Rascal Flatts.
On one hand, this music is extremely sad, with lyrics about loss, tiredness, and hopelessness. Part of this feeling also comes from the liner notes, which say the album is in memory of Amy Farris and Duane Jarvis, two musicians who collaborated with McCulley and died in 2009. (Farris, 40, who committed suicide, was a fiddler in the LA roots-music scene who played with musicians including Alejandro Escovedo, Brian Wilson and Exene Cervenka. Jarvis, 51, who died of colon cancer, was a guitarist who recorded songs with many rock and country musicians, including John Prine and Lucinda Williams.) Jarvis also co-wrote the first song on this album, “Tell Me, I’m Listening.” Later, when McCulley sings “Who’ll Hang the Moon (Song for DJ),” it offers a glimpse of the brotherly, positive influence Jarvis was.
Despite the sometimes dark lyrical content, overall the album resonates with an uplifting peacefulness. This is partly due to McCulley’s soft, young-sounding voice, which doesn’t seem capable of bitterness. Musically, the songs are upbeat, often in an inspiring way. Even though the music may be straightforward, there’s something that – although it’s hard to put your finger on it – makes it memorable.