Wes Cunningham

Pentavant, 2003


REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg


Do you know that lovely feeling when you wake up in the morning, knowing that a really, really great day is ahead of you? The sun is up, and the warmth of the sheet covering you from the cool air breezing from the window, along the smell of newly-washed laundry invigorating your wake? If you don’t, listen to Pollyanna by Wes Cunningham and you'll get the same feeling.

The word Pollyanna may sound like a new designer drug of sorts, and it’s quite true with the album, minus the harmful, delusional effects. Whereas more serious singer/songwriters (Nick Cave and Elliott Smith, for instance) dwell on dark days and just downright depressing lyrics and music, Wes Cunningham writes irresistibly cozy and addictive sugar-coated pop tarts, but he does so with heartfelt and convincing delivery, something few artists of this type can muster.

Cunningham is that lovable loser you knew way back in college, the one who gets along with the crowd, but he’s not really what you would call a “cool” guy. I mean, even the album cover where he dons a shoulder bag and a smirk on his face simply screams “I’m such a dork!” But once hearing the single “Good Good Feeling,” one of the best feel-good songs ever  on par with The Sundays’ “Summertime,” he really sounds like he just wants to be friends with everyone, with the song’s bubbly melodies and infectious vibe. The biting lyrics and nice, big chorus of “Only You Know” also displays his sense of fun.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At his best, Cunningham is a geek with a guitar on hand, confessing his deepest, dreamiest secret in front of a person he really cares for so much. “No Justice” is carried by the keyboard tinkling, but at this point it pretty much becomes obvious that the guitar’s reverberated sound, the song’s huge choruses, and his ear for tuneful melodies define Cunningham’s music. Listeners would actually feel the guitar sound oozing from the speakers and dancing in their ears, especially in “Your Last Kiss,” which is the most beautiful song in the album, with heart-warming guitar lines and the mandatory ‘I’m gonna love you’ sung in a catchy hook.

His better songs usually build up beginnings with slow passages before blasting into the chorus composed of loud instruments (the aforementioned “Only You Know”) and tuneful and singable melodies that stick in your head like the mesmerizing view of the shore (“No Justice”).

Even without the reverb and big chorus, Cunningham still delivers with ”Nevermind,” bleeding of Elliott Smith-isms. The nakedness and innocence of the music brought in by the acoustic guitar and sweet lyrics seem to come out straight out from his diary (“I’m with you now / I am you now”) makes this a highlight.

Cunningham, at worst, is a lovelorn fool who needs to be bashed in the head by John Belushi with an acoustic guitar, a la Animal House, for giving birth to another batch of love songs. The material on the album can easily be dismissed as lightweight because of its mushy nature and cuddly sound. “I Love Eleanor” takes the icing on the cake as an over-saturated attempt at love-sick-love music. Unless your girlfriend is named Eleanor, you’d pretty much get tired of this guy playing acoustic guitar and singing the line “I love Eleanor.” Despite this gripe, Wes’ deft touch for songwriting and instrumentation on the other songs are more than able to handle the delicate matter of the album, especially on “Glory,” where he ends the album on a quite sad yet grandiose note.

Simply put, Pollyanna gave a glimpse of a gifted songwriter destined for greater things. Unfortunately, this appears to be his final album, as years have passed and no follow-up is in sight. Personally, I don’t have any problem if there are no plans for another Cunningham album. What I’d like to know, however, is the fabric conditioner he uses for his laundry so that I can get that perfect morning.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pentavant, and is used for informational purposes only.