Skywriting finds singer-songwriter Zachary Cale reflecting on life out on the road with a full band and an introspective outlook.
The Brooklyn-based Cale has several albums under his belt already, but this might be his most dynamic and mature release to date. The lyrics here often reveal a sense of self-awareness and acceptance that only comes from moments of intense inner growth. The particular tone Cale uses as he weaves these new perspectives into character-driven stories brings to mind classic Bruce Springsteen, especially on “Come on Easy.”
The song is told from the point of view of a roughened man who’s stuck in an even rougher town, working three jobs to support himself and his love. Cale sings about the character’s transformation from a devil-may-care youth that once felt invincible, to an adult that just wants to get by. The narrator has a heart, but can be easily swayed to break a few laws and commit a couple of sins to make life a little easier. The guilt weighs on his mind, but he presses on anyway, which is best expressed in the song’s final verse:
“Rolling rocks up the hill again,
unpacking each and every burden,
some of us carry much within”
This portrait of a complicated man just trying to improve his lot in life is very Nebraska-like, especially with its realistic blurring of moral ambiguity. It’s a stellar standout piece on this record full of bright moments.
Musically, the album differs from most of the singer-songwriter’s work, as he’s completely backed by a full band. Instruments like pianos, electric guitars and synths firmly ground the record into the part of the modern Americana music spectrum that is just as saturated in cannabis smoke as it is in whiskey. So at times the likes of Cass McCombs, Steve Gunn and Kevin Morby come to mind. It’s a smooth listen that also shares DNA with classic folk rock records of the late ’70s and ’90s, making this one of Cale’s most accessible albums so far.
We’ve already seen great things from Cale, but based on the strength of the songwriting on this most recent outing, it’s only a matter of time before he is acknowledged as the national treasure that he truly is. Click here to get your copy of Skywriting now.