A sprightly fiddle introduces “A Few Years Ago,” the nimble tune that opens singer-songwriter Daryl Mosley’s bright new album. The spry ballad flows along Adam Haynes’ fiddle lines, while the rest of the instruments weave themselves under and around Mosley’s warm, smooth-as-silk vocals, with harmonies from Jaelee Roberts. Its America-meets-Poco musical structure evokes the gentle looking-in-the-rearview-mirror lyrics of the song, and the tune’s wistful, nostalgic tone serves as the perfect opener for an album whose themes cover yearning for times and places gone by and for the lessons learned just a “few years ago.”
The poignant title track opens with a mournful fiddle line and blossoms into a sparsely told tale of the local barber whose wisdom grows out of his silent and knowing glances at the world around him. When the singer asks the barber his formula, he replies that the “secret ain’t no secret at all” and proceeds to catalog the elements that make up the “formula”: “just keep on moving forward / get up each time you fall / a good friend you can count on / and a fresh hot cup of coffee / that’s the secret of life.” Mosley’s and Tony Wray’s lively guitar licks open “Hands in Wood,” a lissome tale in which the singer honors his father as a living example of a man who’s always ready to help those in need around him, especially with his carpentry skills. The singer compares his father to that other carpenter, Jesus, who also helped those around him. “Do What the Good Book Says” skitters across the front porch with its propulsive jazz structure; it’s bluegrass gospel by way of New Orleans. The album closes with the scampering “Heartaches Moving In,” a can’t-look-back-but-can’t-help-looking-back lovesick tune.
Mosley’s warm vocals, his knack for telling a great story, guest vocalists including Irene Kelley and Jeanette Williams, and his band’s straight-ahead, waste-no-notes tunes propel The Secret of Life, delivering comfort and down-home advice and reflections. There’s no secret at all here about Mosley’s affection for a good song well-played.