Bill Mallonee is a brilliantly honest songwriter, but the Vigilantes of Love leader's creative urges sometimes don't know when to say when, which oftentimes results in uninspired recorded work. Not so here. Instead, this is an album that takes a long hard (and intelligent) look at this crusty old world of ours and still finds hope among its ruins.
Mallonee accompanies himself on guitar, harmonica, banjo and percussion, and Jake Bradley plays almost everything else. Mallonee draws from a few familiar influences, including the ready-for-the-country side of Neil Young on "After All This Dust Settles Down," whereas "Ready and Red-Eye," with its jangle-y guitar, is closer to early Beatles. With "I Will Never Be Normal (After This)," the shadow Bob Dylan's inspiration hovers over Mallonee's songwriting. This song also includes the album's funniest lines: "And there are drugs for when depressed/ And there are drugs that make you harder still/For when you get undressed."
Overall, "Dear Life" is Mallonee's country-ist album in a long while. Additionally, it introduces some memorable characters, such as the "girl with the Holy Ghost," who turns Mallonee onto The Clash during one track. "Dear Life" is a musical letter that finds Mallonee very much alive and well.