You don't think of acoustic music as angry music? Travis Cyr might change that for you. Over the course of his third album, All the Best Things in Life, he purveys a rapid strum, a manic pace, and a cutting wit that forces you to take him seriously despite a reedy tenor that belies his substantial frame and a lot of pretty melodies on things like mandolin, banjo, piano, and fiddle (played by a variety of local lights — Putnam Smith, Greg Klein, Tyler Leinhardt, Nathan Cyr, Chuck Prinn, Leslie Deane, Joe Farrell, and Frank Hopkins, who recorded the whole thing).
It's hard not to peg a guy as cynical when he finishes a song like "Sabretooth" with a chorus of voices moving from full band accompaniment to a capella with the repeating phrase: "All good men, in the end, they end up dead." Which is both true and the kind of grounded observation that follows Cyr's litany of reality: "wood and rock, dust and ash, mud and stone, sand and glass, guilt and fear, panic attack, paper and plastic, garbage and trash."
By adding rock drums, occasional electric guitar, and simple fervor to folkish songs, Cyr ups the ante in much the same way that his best song here, "If I Had a Mountain," steps beyond the classic progressive tune "If I Had a Hammer." A sweet mandolin melody, more gritty than virtuosic, grounds the song, which manages to be a slow burn despite the quick acoustic strum of the guitar, "but such is war and peace and life." It might seem like you have all the time in the world, but then life rushes by before you know it.
Basically, Cyr never wants you to get too comfortable. By introducing digital whirs, even a recurring sound that sometimes like a dog whistle, he's evincing "Teaching and King" sentiment like "on the outside of the storm/We struggle to stay warm." Ultimately, though, he plays the part of optimist: "I think it's gonna be a beautiful day."
Does he believe that, though?
ALL THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE | Released by Travis Cyr | with Tricky Britches + Putnam Smith + Dark Hollow Bottling Co. | at the Empire, in Portland | Nov 26 | wix.com/traviscyrmusic/tc#!