Mark Erelli wrote "The Only Way" off his fifth solo release, Hope & Other Casualties, shortly after September 11, 2001 in response to what he saw going on around him. He then put down the ideas for the album and went on to issue two other records, The Memorial Hall Recordings and Hillbilly Pilgrim. The remaining nine songs (plus the cover of Ron Sexsmith's "God Loves Everyone") on Hope & Other Casualties came in 2005, in the ten months spent by Erelli and producer Lorne Entress in a basement studio (Erelli played 11 instruments, Entress seven). The finished product that came out of those sessions is a nice collection, with poignant songs that find him pleading to his audience to think about others and look towards the future, questioning the behavior of modern-day America and Americans, and mourning the loss of his childhood play-spot to development. Yet Erelli doesn't come off as cynical or angry; rather, he's simply a man who wonders which way the world is headed, and who wants to do anything he can to help it, even if it just means singing of "love and truth." He has a strong, expressive voice, which ranges from a Ben Harper-like soul in "Snowed In," to a country-blues twang in the lovely "Undone." His songs are nice, too; thoughtful and melodic, optimistic even in a world filled with pessimism and jadedness. There's nothing revolutionary here: Erelli sticks pretty closely to the modern folk tradition of songwriting, but he does it well, and Hope & Other Casualties is certainly a record worth listening to.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown