Here in the days of racial unrest, financial uncertainty and rampant sickness, a little levity and optimism goes a long way. Of course, no single album can hope to solve all of the world’s problems, but Wildest Dreams, the latest outing from Oregonian paramedic turned performer, Ryan Stevenson, does manage to interject a welcome dose of hope of light into what has become a decidedly bleak first half of the year.
The title track, with its buoyant rhythms and sunny disposition, springs from the same fountain as the infectiously cheerful pop of artists like Jordan Feliz and, especially, Jason Gray. “Mercy in the Dirt” is a funk-fueled declaration of self-worth and the Divine mercy upon which it rests. The overarching outlook of “Best Is Yet to Come” is as perceptive as it is positive. And the tongue-in- cheek litany of decade-dependent mementos like Obsession cologne, eyebrow slits and the almighty Ace of Base renders “My ‘90s” a guilty, but undeniable, pleasure.
Lest he be accused of trading solely in blind optimism and broad generalities, Stevenson shows himself more than capable of capturing the realities of life’s less-than-ideal side. The chorus of “When We Fall Apart” is built upon the last words his mother spoke to him before dying from bone cancer in 2009. “With Your Life” offers a stark and honest snapshot of pain felt by a son whose father rarely verbalized his love. And “Through It All” ("Woke up from a long night/ Hoping for the sunlight/ Just another cloudy day") could well be considered a musical exclamation point of sorts to both of the aforementioned songs.
Objectively speaking, Stevenson’s previous efforts have been pleasant, if somewhat generic, showings. While he does continue to wander down the now overly familiar radio-friendly pop road that rendered a sizeable portion of his back catalog less than completely engaging, that tendency is kept mostly to a minimum this time around. Dreams won’t set the pop world on its ear or start any new musical trends, but it does hold a place as Stevenson’s most consistent offering to date, making it a necessary purchase for existing fans and an album worth investigating by those who appreciate smooth, well-crafted inspirational pop.- Review date: 6/25/20, written by Bert Gangl of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Gotee Records
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