By Bruce Sylvester
Coming a full three years after Train’s multi-platinum “Save Me, San Francisco,” “California 37” keeps its sonic palette ever shifting with dance club, acoustic contemporary folk and Latin American snatches handled with enough finesse that they don’t seemed tacked on. There’s only occasional instrumental overkill. The ukulele is the predominant instrument on “Sing Together” (one of several cheery end-of-life songs).
For all his fame and fortune, lead singer-writer Pat Monahan presents himself as a shy guy who thought that love was out of reach. (“I’ll learn to dance if you promise not to laugh.”) The rhymes are fresh (“On the other side of a downward spiral/My love for you went viral.”).
As for songs’ rock references (“grateful wasn’t dead”), deceased musicians abound but are hardly center stage in sweetly philosophical “You Can Finally Meet My Mom.” The opener, “This’ll Be My Year,” recalls Don McLean’s “American Pie.” In contrast to Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” Monahan’s co-written “50 Ways To Say Goodbye” proposes multiple lies to tell about how an ex died tragically rather than admit that actually she’s dumped him.
The trio’s songs acknowledge life’s hard knocks. In “Bruises,” Monahan and Ashley Monroe play long-ago high school friends meeting again: “These bruises make for better conversation.” The happy news is that the bruises along California’s Highway 37 (and elsewhere in life) will heal.