CD Review: John Gaar “Brighter Side of Maybe”

Austin, Texas-based musician-turned-singer/songwriter John Gaar is a musician that got his start as a guitarist at an early age. After doing some time backing up people like his own brother, Burton Gaar, John decided it was time to start writing his own material.

Recently, John Gaar released his second album entitled Brighter Side of Maybe. This release follows his previous album Bittersweet Success. When Gaar was creating this new release with his producer Ron D’Argenio, the two started with a rock base to the songs and then added different elements to each track to produce songs that had the variety to keep the album fresh from the first note to the last.

Since an album requires more than just the lyrics, Gaar and D’Argenio brought in musicians Cody Banks on drums and Mark Harris on bass to combine with Gaar’s guitar playing and D’Argenio’s keyboards. Together with other musicians, these four talented men helped create the music on John Gaar’s Brighter Side of Maybe.

Brighter Side of Maybe from John Gaar begins with “It Is What It Is”. The southern rock-flavored track is a strong song that features Gaar’s guitar playing. The multi-leveled recording process used for Gaar’s guitar helped to create many different parts, which included rhythm, melody and harmony parts, all blending together to create a track that is perfect to lead off this new release from Gaar.

With the next track of “Sooner or Later,” Gaar, D’Argenio, Banks and Harris combine their talents to create the hard rockin’ track. “Sooner or Later” features lyrics that are definitely spiritual in nature without being too “preach-y,” as they warn that everyone will eventually die, no matter what you do.

Just as soon as the listener to Bright Side of Maybe gets used to the hard rockin’ style of Gaar and his band, the musical landscape shifts, creating a completely different feel to the song “Angel Flew Away”. Staying with the spiritual feeling set in place during “Sooner or Later,” Gaar tugs at the heart with a song about someone being taken from this life too soon and sent up to heaven.

After spending some time in the relaxed mood of “Angel Flew Away,” John Gaar once again brings the energy level back up with the song “Ain’t No Hill For a Stepper”. On a song about being warned that the road ahead will not always be easy, Malford Milligan, Michael Cross and Ginger Leigh appear on the album for the first time to lend their voices to create a choir-like effect on a song that can also be viewed as being “spiritual”.

The musical landscape shifts once again for the song “Between the Lines”. Keyboard player (as well as album producer) Ron D’Argenio takes the lead on this track that brings to mind music from Bruce Hornsby. While the track spends a lot of time focused on D’Argenio’s keyboard playing, the guitar solo by Gaar halfway through the song about ‘searching for answers’ reminds the listener that the focus should remain on him, as this is Gaar’s album.

Coming late in the track listing of the album, the title track of “The Brighter Side of Maybe” is one of the strongest and most “upbeat” tracks. The music is strong and bright, while the lyrics suggest that you should view life with a little less pessimism.

John Gaar’s Brighter Side of Maybe comes to a close with the song “Let Me Show You”. The track opens with Gaar and D’Argenio creating a ballad with just guitar and keyboard. The rest of the musicians and singers join in to complete the song about expressing one’s feelings in action. The relaxed feel to the song brings the album to a close on a gentle note.

With all of the elements that come together to create Brighter Side of Maybe by John Gaar, including the many styles of music which were blended together, the talented musicians that took part in creating it, and even the spiritual aspect to the lyrics, the most important thing to be said about the release is that it is solid: There is not one song in the playlist that should have been left out. The ten tracks that make up the album come together to create a release that all but begs the listener to put down the remote and just let the album play out. For only a second solo release, John Gaar has created something in Brighter Side of Maybe that will be hard to top.