Building on 26 years and 10 studio albums since his 1978 debut, Alive on Arrival, Steve Forbert has matured into a canny observer of the human comedy, capturing his subjects with the sharp-eyed precision of Randy Newman but with greater compassion. In “Wild as the Wind,” a tribute to The Band’s Rick Danko, Forbert journalistically details the late bassist/vocalist’s excesses, but the character study comes off as affectionate as it is unsparing. Elsewhere, the Mississippi native sorts through the fallout of romantic relationships (“I Married a Girl”) and aspirations (“I Just Work Here”) while celebrating the resilience of hope (“About a Dream”). Forbert masterfully employs his unmistakable sandpaper rasp, softening it into a burnished rusticity in the album’s many poignant passages, letting it catch in his throat for punctuation. The studio band—featuring Dan Dugmore’s plaintive pedal steel—nails the spirit of the songs, nestling into the gentle vibe of “There’s Everybody Else (And Then There’s You),” rocking with true grit on “Oh, Yesterday” and bringing majesty to the gorgeous bridge of “What It Is Is a Dream.” True to its title, this is an album where everything just seems to work effortlessly—which is one of the hardest feats to convincingly pull off.