Stress Dreams – Greensky Bluegrass

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Confronted by the problems and perils brought on by the pandemic and all the other issues that they and everyone else have been forced to deal with recently, Greensky Bluegrass’ aptly named opus, Stress Dreams, manages to find hope in happenstance, and optimism despite obstacles. Yet even despite the distance and divide caused by isolation and uncertainty, they’ve managed to make an album that rings with resilience, drive and determination, the qualities that have set this exceptional outfit apart from early on.

Opening track Absence of Reason sets up the scenario:

With the absence of a reason
There’s a lot more to believe in
I’m moving on a feeling to you

Give me strength that I can count on
Something sturdy I can lean on
And the sense to correctly choose
Cause I want to do right more than anything I do

It’s a worthy goal, and in the capable hands of this adept quartet — Anders Beck (reso-guitar), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass), and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) — the music is conveyed with a forthright finesse, ease and assurance that allows the messaging to resonate with the full emphasis that was intended. Every entry echoes consistency, and with songs such as Monument, New and Improved, Reasons to Stay and Grow Together, Greensky imparts anthemic intent to inspire, inform, and take their messaging to a higher plateau. “I feel worthless without a purpose until I can sing for you,” the singer declares in Until I Sing, a fully resolved statement about will and reconciliation. 

Nevertheless, it’s the title track that puts the problem in perspective, just as the instrumental interlude affirms the fact that indeed today’s problems are often overwhelming. Consequently, when they declare, “It’s harder to keep my gaze off the floor when rest isn’t restful anymore,” it seems to sum up the sentiments that we all share these days. And while the band clearly intend to set their sights on distant horizons, other songs — Give a Shit, Streetlight, Worry for You — echo those mutual feelings of discouragement and displacement.

There are no easy answers, and in fact Greensky Bluegrass offers every indication that they’re simply trying to cope like everyone else. Yet, by sharing those sentiments, they make it clear that no one is in this scary situation alone. Now more than ever, it’s consolation that counts.

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