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CD Review: Gretchen Pleuss “Daughter of the Broader Skies”

Gretchen Pleuss is an Ohio-bred singer-songwriter who makes her home in Akron and performs regularly around the Northeastern Ohio region. Not only does she perform her own music in venues around the area, she also hosts an Open-mic night at the Uncorked Wine Bar. As a singer-songwriter, Pleuss creates music that is strongly based in Folk-Rock. And it is that style of music that can be found on Pleuss’ albums Out of Dreams (2013) and From Birth, To Breath, To Bone (2016). Pleuss recently added to that discography with her latest album, 2019’s Daughter of the Broader Skies.

As a musician, Gretchen Pleuss is a guitarist that has developed a rather jazzy style to her playing. That jazzy playing style from Pleuss helps to shape the feel of her Folk-Rock music, which is very evident in her latest album of Daughter of the Broader Skies. And to bring that new 2019 release to life, Gretchen Pleuss is joined by her backing band, which consists of drummer Holbrook Riles III, bassist Matt DeRubertis and percussionist Anthony Taddeo. Pleuss and band is also joined by Ray Flanagan who adds his touches to the music of the album. The resulting release is helped along by the studio production of Jim Wirt.

Daughter of the Broader Skies from Gretchen Pleuss begins with the track “If You Saw Me Now”. The track that has become the second single off of the release features a Folk/Pop-Rock blend to the music, placing the song squarely in the Soft Rock/Adult Contemporary genre. The song features a light, rather bouncy feel to the track, thanks to the fingerpicking guitar style from Pleuss. And while there is that lightness in the music, the subject matter is anything but light. The track finds the subject of the song speaking to her deceased mother, looking for guidance. As Pleuss sings, she describes a relationship that is far from healthy; a relationship the subject can’t seem to get away from. Pleuss seems to be wondering what her mother would say about the matter if only she were here. With the subject matter being rather serious in nature, “If You Saw Me Now” is a track that will make you think. However, it’s still a track that draws the listener in with its commercial sound that is readymade for radio airplay.   

Gretchen Pleuss continues her new release with the song “Everybody’s Pretty,” the first single off of the release. The song follows a woman as she makes her way through Queens in New York. The singer describes the scene as she encounters many different people whom she interacts with. As she makes her way through the city, she notices the fake quality of those people who are all too pretty to be real. The track makes one wish for the realness of the everyday world that you won’t find in that city. Much like with the previous track, “Everybody’s Pretty” features Pleuss’ fingerpicking style of playing, which gives the music its jazzy musical approach. You could easily imagine this track being on Adult Contemporary radio formats.

Pleuss continues Daughter of the Broader Skies with the song “Sheepish”. While the previous track features a fingerpicking style of playing in the guitar, Gretchen Pleuss chooses a much simpler strumming style of playing on this track. That creates a more usual feel to the Folk-Rock music on the track. Much like with the previous track where Pleuss described her interaction with the people she encountered, “Sheepish” finds her describing another scene in much the same way. Except in this case, Pleuss sings of doing a little inner soul-searching as she looks for a higher power. With the choice of creating Folk-Rock, Pleuss draws inspiration from the likes of singer-songwriters of years gone by. With this track, you can almost hear Joni Mitchell and/or Carole King in this track.

Gretchen Pleuss’ fingerpicking style of playing returns on the title track of her latest release. The song “Daughter of the Broader Skies” begins with a laidback feel to the Folk-Rock music. That laidback feel is short-lived however as the addition of percussion and a stronger bass delivery to the track adds a bit of energy to the music. That energetic delivery adds a different feel to the album. As the track progresses, more instrumentation is added to the track. Instead of featuring a Folk-Rock sound, the song comes across as more of an Indie Rock track. “Daughter of the Broader Skies” is one of the strongest tracks on the release.

Many singer-songwriters writer songs about themes that they are passionate about. And in today’s political climate, many are taking a stand on the poor conditions the people being held near the border of the U.S/Mexico border. Gretchen Pleuss is no different as she has written the song “Borders” as her way of making a statement on the subject. The lyrics about how some people are being treated and the conditions they are existing under are matched up with music that features a gentle feel to the Folk/Rock blend that Pleuss has created to help stress the feel of the words. While the lyrics could be more extreme and poignant, the resulting track still helps to remind people of the situation taking place.

Daughter of the Broader Skies from Gretchen Pleuss continues with the track “Rainy Days”. With a track that features a Lite Rock approach to the music much like songs from Tori Amos and/or Sarah McLachlan. That Lite Rock approach comes with a generous Pop feel to it. And just like “If You Saw Me Now” from earlier in the release, “Rainy Days” features a slightly bouncy feel to the music. The track that finds Pleuss reflecting on a part relationship has very catchy and commercial quality to it. There is enough of a commercial appeal to the track that it could become the next single off of the album if Pleuss ever wanted to release it that way.

The newest release from Gretchen Pleuss comes to a close with the song “One for All”. Like the song “Borders,” this song finds Pleuss in a political mood standing up for what she believes. The song “One for All” features lyrics about the failure of the American Dream to live up to the promise that should come with it. Pleuss sings of the things that could be attained IF you are just the right person with just the right background…and the reality of what actually happens. The very poignant track brings the new release from the singer-songwriter to a close in a way that leaves you contemplating the words long after the last note of the track fades.

Gretchen Pleuss’ Daughter of the Broader Skies release contains many songs that have a light, bouncy feel to them. But the songs on the album that come with a message keep the release from getting too light and easy. The dozen tracks on the release show off the talent of Gretchen Pleuss as a singer-songwriter as well as musician.     

To discover the music of Gretchen Pleuss, check out the track of “If You Saw Me Now”. 

To hear the entire album of Daughter of the Broader Skies from Gretchen Pleuss, click on the album cover below: 

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