Greg Tressel – The Hard Way
Many years ago, Greg Tressel was Nashville-based songwriter. His lyrics show an overpowering emphasis on I, You, He, She, We and They. By simply focusing on himself and others, that’s the predominant way Tressel presents reflections, thoughts, advice, guidance, and stories. Also, observe the songwriter’s action verbs on a project with this amount of original material (11 of the 12 cuts). Tressel’s all about learning, thinking, praying, waiting, hoping, pushing, drinking, stumbling, driving, remembering and searching. The result is trenchant observations and touching evocations about life and love.
To better understand Tressel’s early influences, “Three Chords & the Truth, He Changed the World” has subtle unnamed references to Woody Guthrie, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and John Lennon. The hook gets a little repetitive, but we do gain the insight that Tressel appreciates simplicity, honesty, and the great impact that straightforward music can have. There’s nothing wrong with formulas that work, and Tressel shows he can weave a complete story about a queen on a throne with a methodical country song like “If There’s Barstool, She’s On It.” In the title cut, the poor guy admits he’s a slow learner being played like a fool. “Mill Worker’s Daughter” is a rags-to-riches tale about a girl who discovers that “Fairy tales come true, Looks like Cinderella, Found her shoe.”
Tressel wrote many of these songs in a few months, and then called producer, drummer, friend Gary Mallaber to help him bring them to life. The assembled session players include Hutch Hutchinson (bass), Johnny Trujillo (bass), Jeff Pevar (guitars, Dobro, mandolin), Barry Goldberg (organ, piano), Johnny Lee Schell (guitars), Bob “Boo” Bernstein (pedal steel, Dobro), Bill Holloman (horns, piano). Mallaber’s vibes are pleasing on a breezy “I Wrote Her Name in the Sand.” With Tony Gall, Mallaber also wrote one song for the album, “You’re Pushing All the Right Buttons.” The sound of Kevin Carr’s accordion and Uilleann pipes are unique additions on “This Town, This Time” and “Mill Worker’s Daughter,” respectively.
Tressel is not afraid to present a stylistic multi-genre diversity that mixes country, pop, rock, blues and gospel flavorings into a cohesive, radio-friendly commercial sound. The only risk he takes is that he could become hard to categorize. Lively instrumental and vocal interplay bring rich infectious spirit to this alt-country album. Spiritually-tinged harmonies (Marcy Levy, Diane Lotney, Kara Grainger) and some horns make for tight ensemble playing that precisely wraps itself around Greg’s vocals. “The Hard Way” is a consistently enjoyable listen. (Joe Ross, CD Insight)