Hunter Sheridan’s Life is a Dream is an album as fundamentally rooted in earnest, genuine emotion as it is the familiar trappings of country folk.
The first time I listened to Hunter Sheridan’s first full album in its entirety, I was in the midst of a long, sunny drive in the country, and I can’t imagine a better backdrop to compliment the feeling of this record. Life is a Dream sounds like the sonic embodiment of the soft, tender moments of summer, conjuring images of front porches, dusty roads, and star-filled night skies.
Aptly titled, the album’s tracks flow into one another with a very dreamy, surreal feel, each song sewn together with tactfully minimal production that works to support and not eclipse the sincerity of Sheridan’s songwriting. Understated, deliberate guitar lead lines slide in gracefully to accent and reinforce vocal melodies, while tasteful percussion tends to defer rhythmic lead to the acoustic guitar.
The record settles in slowly at first, as Better Than Yesterday starts with a cautious, introductory tease of Sheridan’s country-tinged storytelling and deep, wistful vocals before they’re paired with Jules Hall’s light and delicate harmonies. As a relative constant on the album (and an incredibly welcome one at that), Hall’s additions further bring out the reflective, wispy texture of Life is a Dream. Between the evident chemistry of the vocals and the well-written harmonies, many moments land somewhere feeling much closer to charged duet than leading and backing lines, much to the album’s credit.
Upon relistening, This Time I Know has managed to keep the strongest association with that first summer drive. It could be the content of the lyrics, or the feel of the music, but it perfectly paints the picture of staring out the window, watching the landscape move around you. One of the more upbeat, optimistic cuts, it lends a little contrast to the album’s overall more poignant bend. Tracks like That Night, Fires Fade, and the titular Life Is a Dream, while not quite melancholy, manage to pull heartstrings in their own respective direction. The emotionally charged Fires Fade sounds like it was specifically intended to be the score for slow dancing in empty cottages and moonlit roads, but if you’re partial to a good slow dance number, all three tracks are definite playlist fodder.
Breaking away a little from the folky focus of Life is a Dream, the funky riffing and rhythm breaks of What You Need stand out the most starkly from the rest of the record. My personal favourite, and by far the largest track as far as production and instrumentation goes, it still manages to maintain that close, intimate feel while escalating the dynamics and showcasing more of the band and the versatility of Sheridan’s songwriting.
Sincerely written and well-crafted, Life is a Dream is a must-listen and a trustworthy highway companion.
- Jack Darby