With her pleasing disposition and a consistently upbeat attitude, Carolyn Eyerly makes it clear on this, her first album released under her own aegis that its tunes remain true to the title, The Sunny Side of Life. While many of the songs — Take Me Home, Lord, Over in the Glory Land, Angels Band, and Heavenly Flow in particular — mix faith with finesse, she freely shares her positive approach in each, making it clear that her happiness simply can’t be confined to either temporal or spiritual domains. Indeed, when she does opt to take a strong stand — as witnessed in the plea she makes to an obstinate lover on the jaunty yet descriptive, Your Anger Is a Wall (“I want to bring you joy…to fill your life with peace/And to keep my promise my love will never cease”) — she still manages to do so under a positive pretext.
Then again Eyerly’s expertise is no accident. A founding member of the Washington, DC based band, Shenandoah Run, she later honed her chops as part of the award-winning, all-woman bluegrass band, Sweet Yonder. The Sunny Side of Life finds her responsible for composing seven of the twelve tracks, and each of them creates a seamless blend alongside the album’s covers. Likewise, as both a singer and rhythm guitarist, she holds her own in the company of an adept group of guest contributors.
That said, it’s her affable intent that creates the most immediate impression. The title track, one of her originals, sums up her sentiments perfectly, but when she follows it with a surprisingly sweet take on Curtis Mayfield’s, People Get Ready, the giddy vibe doesn’t become diminished at all. She maintains that mantra with Heavenly Flow, leaving no doubt as to why her praise is so indelibly tied to her purpose.
Not surprisingly then, The Sunny Side of Life owes as much to Gospel as it does to bluegrass, but the picking, playing, and unyielding optimism makes any need to categorize somewhat secondary. It’s simply the feel-good album that the banner implies. And given the trouble and tumult that most folks have faced over the past year, the timing couldn’t be better. To that point, it may seem unusual at first to include a holiday song in a non-holiday themed album, but regardless, the cheery Christmas in a Dive Bar offers evidence that there’s always need to find cause for celebration.
Credit Eyerly for reminding us that even in the midst of uncertainty, opportunities to find happiness ought never be ignored.