Greensky Bluegrass – Stress Dreams (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:07:19 minutes | 1,37 GB | Genre: Folk, Bluegrass
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Big Blue Zoo Records
For two decades now, Greensky Bluegrass has been building an empire, brick by brick. Their eighth studio release, Stress Dreams was produced by Dominic Davis (Jack White) and Grammy winning engineer/producer Glenn Brown amidst the 2020 pandemic. It follows their 2019 release, All for Money, which landed on the Top 100 at the Billboard Albums Chart, Top 20 at Independent Albums and Current Country Albums, Top 10 at Americana/Folk Albums Top 5 at Heatseekers, and #1 at Bluegrass Albums. Greensky is widely known for their dazzling live performances and relentless touring schedule. As with traditional bluegrass, the band writes about their own contemporary day-to-day happenings, emotions, and experiences in the modern world. Their die-hard fans pack out venues across the country. They travel in droves and sell out multiple-night show runs at iconic venues like Red Rocks and The Ryman.
The world of modern string bands like Greensky Bluegrass has quickly evolved into those who can write songs like this album’s title track and those who can … well, jam. “Stress Dreams” is a lively personal journey that’s front-loaded with string picking but eventually turns into an expansive exploration enlivened by electric guitars, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ, and a synth-generated background. Rock, bluegrass, folk music, and even prog rock touches make it the showpiece of this well-crafted folk rock album that happily takes its songwriting seriously. While their live shows are energetic and entertaining—and a tune here like “Give a Shit” should quickly become a live standard—guitarist Dave Bruzza, banjoist Michael Arlen Bont, mandolinist Paul Hoffman, upright bassist Michael Devol and dobro player Anders Beck are all reasonably skilled players who know their way around polished songcraft and the art of recording.
Produced by the band, Dominic Davis and Glenn Brown, the latter of whom also engineered and mixed the album, the sonics of Stress Dreams, their 12th album since 2004, has a fine balance between string players and the more modern additions. It’s not surprising given that they’ve always admitted that they came from the rock world—an electric guitar sound (from a Resophonic guitar) comes in early in the opener “Absence of Reason” and howls away as a wordless duet partner in “Streetlight.” A welcome new flavor on Stress Dreams comes from the four strong, tuneful folk/pop songs by Devol, including the title track and “Get Sad,” whose lovely chorus of “You really wanna feel?/ Get sad”—accentuated by Beck’s reverberant dobro—is the album’s most melodic moment.
As the band’s writer of “meaning” songs, Hoffman says he’s not fulfilled “Until I Sing” but worries that “I’m not loving what I’m good at now/ Or not good enough at what I love somehow/ I always feared this might happen/ If I didn’t surrender my dreams.” Lyrically there are times when Hoffman’s angst gets forced and overwrought as in the cliché-ridden, “Cut a Tooth” where “the hand of power fuels the fist of rage.” Yet fired by lively acoustic ensemble playing and a genuine bonhomie you can hear, Greensky Bluegrass continues to be among the leaders in adding fresh influences, writing serious lyrics, staying unafraid of pop music, and taking the string band world towards something a bit more memorable and lasting than just jamming. – Robert Baird
01. Greensky Bluegrass – Absence of Reason (04:17)
02. Greensky Bluegrass – Monument (04:41)
03. Greensky Bluegrass – Until I Sing (03:07)
04. Greensky Bluegrass – Stress Dreams (08:01)
05. Greensky Bluegrass – Give a Shit (04:56)
06. Greensky Bluegrass – Streetlight (06:21)
07. Greensky Bluegrass – Worry for You (04:33)
08. Greensky Bluegrass – Get Sad (02:56)
09. Greensky Bluegrass – Cut a Tooth (05:29)
10. Greensky Bluegrass – New & Improved (05:47)
11. Greensky Bluegrass – Screams (04:17)
12. Greensky Bluegrass – Grow Together (07:00)
13. Greensky Bluegrass – Reasons to Stay (05:49)