Acclaimed songwriter Dana Cooper brings both joy and honesty, collaborating with multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Dave Coleman on I Can Face the Truth. The remarkable credits include some of the best writers, singers, and musicians from both the states and Ireland. They include Tom Kimmel, Kim Richey, Jonell Moser, Maura O’Connell, and Brother Paul Brown. Cooper’s co-writers Rebecca Folsom, Elva Jones-Hahn and David Starr sent in their vocal tracks from different parts of Colorado. Gillian Tuite and Joseph Murray sent in theirs from Ireland. Drummer Chris Benelli and bassist Paul Slivka form the rhythm tandem and cut the core of these songs live with Cooper and Coleman, both mostly playing a variety of guitars. The other parts were layered in due to the pandemic conditions at hand.
The record bursts out with energy and joy with the opening “Always Old Friends,” reminiscing of good times and bad with lines such as “We’ll always be old friends/Crazy rock n roll old friends.” The titular track is a thoughtful mix of confidence and a desire not to put on his “A” game every ticking second or maybe he’s just plain exhausted from taking valid criticism (“I’m not a coward but I’m tired of being brave.”) Another one that fits into this spirited pop-rock mode is “Upside Down Day,” yet Cooper offers other moods and tempos too. He comes across warmly and sincerely in the ballad co-write with Kim Richey, “Flower and Vine” and goes on to deliver a wide range of emotions across these 13 songs. The deeply tender “Ours For a Little While,” co-written with Jones-Hahn, echoes with hints of Roy Orbison and a huge backing chorus, as he urges his lover to hold on tight and savor these moments.
The lone cover, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” reveals an inventive arrangement and serves as a kind of interlude to the second half of the album. Cooper’s harmonica meshes tightly with Coleman’s slide guitar. The sentiment plays directly to our isolated, stay-at-home worlds we’ve all endured for the past two years. This theme than carries into another of his duality songs, “Laughing and Crying,” a bit like the title track as the protagonist struggles with various conflicts and obstacles. The standout “Bluebird” is Cooper’s original, not the Stephen Stills tune, but has similar indelible qualities. He and co-writer Tom Kimmel make a series of observations and poetically clever political commentary about our divisive world but ultimately find some hope in a world that “don’t see eye to eye.” Brother Paul Brown (The Waterboys) imbues the sound with his spirited B3. Equally moving is the hymn “Summer in America,” tying together the peaceful protests of Civil Rights and the Vietnam War with those of today’s social causes.
His contentious streak continues into the gently delivered “Walls,” which doesn’t directly address the border as much as it’s a decrying of divisiveness in general with his lines – “Turn toward each other, open up and smile/Allow yourself to listen to the other.” He expounds on this theme in the ballad “Humankind,” which is rendered beautifully with Tim Lorsch’s strings but doesn’t quite hit like the others due to the pedantic lyrics. The Tom Petty-like “I Know a Girl” snaps us out of this serious state into the bliss of jangling guitars and the triumphant feeling of finding the right partner. The closer “I’m Just Passing Through” seems to be a curious way to end the album, a kind of existential statement on the unimportance of any of us when considering our temporary stay in this vast world. Maybe it’s duality at play again, given his lines in “Walls” and “Humankind.” He leaves us thinking, as only the best songwriters do.