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RJ Cowdery

What If This is All There Is – 2019 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by RJ Cowdery

In the vein of "it's never too late," RJ Cowdery is a Columbus, Ohio-based three decades plus songwriter who only decided to record and perform a few years ago. She has plenty of hard-earned wisdom to impart. Already she's garnered songwriting awards at several prestigious festivals like Kerrville and Falcon Ridge. Her nine songs and one Josh Ritter cover on "What If This Is All There Is" speak to change and loss in an autobiographical way that becomes rather universal. Many of us deal with aging, losing loved ones and contemplating what's left.

Cowdery enlists fellow songsmith Amy Speace as producer while gifted guitarist Thomm Jutz not only plays brilliantly as usual, but handles the recording, engineering and mixing. One of Nashville's in-demand keyboardists, Jen Gunderman, and versatile string man Justin Moses also frame Cowdery's songs with support from three female harmonizers.

"Somewhere A Place" is a mixed remembrance of a past husband that she sees reflected in their son's features and actions. The title track is one that retirees, or those who have recently left the proverbial rat race, can relate to. Rather than worry about tomorrow, take the present as she does - "One song at a time is doing me just fine/And who knows I might just pull through." "Broken Wheel" urges one to cling to hope even when feeling on the brink while "Don't Give Up" is a plaintive plea to restore a relationship gone bad.

That last glimmer of hope in a relationship turns to revengeful anger in "Shotgun Rider." "Get Out of Here" contemplates mortality with lonely emotions that recall more innocent times using lines like - "Now my shiny belly Buddha on the dashboard's got a frown." She reprises the theme of the title track in the sweet closer, "Lost and Found" with these being the last lines on the recording - "Here we are in a circle chasing our tails/I think we've finally earned some time to sit back and exhale."

Yes, most of us can relate well to Cowdery's songs. She expresses common thoughts better than most of us can and therein, even amidst the sadness in some of the lyrics, we find comfort.