With the release of his 2019 album Dream Road, Doug Tuttle completes the transition he began on 2017's Peace Potato. On that outing, he left most of the moody lo-fi psychedelia he had been previously exploring with winning results on the cutting room floor and instead began digging into the jangling sound of '70s and '80s album rock (with some folk-rock and acid meandering around the edges). It was mid-fi and direct; listeners got the feeling that maybe Tuttle had crawled out from under some dark clouds and was opening both his music and his heart to brighter things. On Dream Road, he moves a step closer to happy hi-fidelity with a clean and clear sound that features his voice up front over crisply strummed acoustic guitars, not very fuzzy guitar leads, and punchy drums. There are fewer Mellotrons, almost no hazy psych, and Tuttle has fully embraced the Tom Petty fandom that first poked its head up on Peace Potato. A few songs have the mid-tempo chugging feel of mid-period Petty, complete with slide guitars, jangling 12-string, and pristine production. It wouldn't be shocking to learn that Jeff Lynne had produced "In This World Alone" or "All Alone." There are a couple of ballads that call to mind Lynne's work with Petty, too: the slowly unwinding "Well I Guess" and "Long Day to Your Home," on which Tuttle strums and hums like a one-man Traveling Wilburys. Other tracks on the record conjure up Dire Straits ("Long Day to Your Home" with its Knopfler-esque guitar soloing), America ("Did You Need Someone"), and "Can You Feel It" even has a bit of a funky AM radio groove. Tuttle hasn't completely forsaken his old psych-pop approach -- both "Twilight" and "But Not for You" have biting guitars and some murky atmosphere -- but his sonic upgrade and wider range of influences might be enough to scare off most of his established fan base. Anyone who doesn't mind mellow '70s soft rock, clean '80s heartland rock, and laid-back ballads should stick with Tuttle a bit longer, since he brings the same level of skill, invention, and songcraft to those styles as he did to his old brand of bedroom-cooked psych.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra