Ask any fan of bluegrass, and part of what inspires their love is the experience of feeling the music.
The reverberations of wood and string. Thick harmony hanging in the air. That magic interplay of creative spirits trading instrumental breaks back and forth without speaking a word. Until now, you could really only get that in a live setting. But with Dolby Atmos, we’re getting closer than ever to capturing it.
This new spatial audio format is slowly changing the listening experience – and for once, bluegrass music is at the forefront. Labels like Crossroads Music Group – which includes Mountain Home Music Company and Organic Records – are recording and mastering their music with Dolby Atmos, and platforms like TIDAL are fully onboard, adopting it for their “Bluegrass: Dolby Atmos” playlist.
It’s a win-win, really. Fans get that full-bodied, textured-listening experience – and artists love it, too. According to them, bluegrass is particularly well suited to the spatial-audio revolution.
“It’s perfect because of the organic nature of the music,” says Darren Nicholson (formerly of Balsam Range), who is featured on the TIDAL playlist. “It feels like you are standing in the middle of a jam session in the living room.”
“As a listener of bluegrass music, it feels groundbreaking to listen to the genre in Dolby Atmos,” adds Jesse Iaquinto of Fireside Collective, praising how the Bluegrass: Dolby Atmos playlist highlights bluegrass’s “depth” – with all its tone and timbre included.
In fact, artists like Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous Stringdusters say bluegrass is “prime candidate” for new tech like Dolby audio.
“Bluegrass music in particular is very dynamic and has great sonic separation built in by nature of the instruments usually involved,” he explains. “The extra space gives it the breathing room the music needs to really ‘pop’ for a recorded music listening experience.”
That was the idea for TIDAL’s Editor-in-Chief, Tony Gervino, too. He calls bluegrass “one the most dynamic and vital branches within today’s country music,” and notes that “as the Bluegrass sound itself expands, so do the listening possibilities for its fans.”
He and his team created the Bluegrass: Dolby Atmos playlist to celebrate that very expansion. They ended up with an expert-curated lineup which includes artists from across the bluegrass spectrum, from Lonesome River Band and Balsam Range, to Unspoken Tradition, Benson, The Grascals, The Cleverlys and more. Many of them are also part of Crossroads Music Group.
To them, the magic is in the way Atmos recording makes each listener feel surrounded – even through tiny computer speakers. You don’t just hear the notes, you hear the way each musician and their instrument play off one another, and how it all blends together.
Before now, that has never really been captured in recorded music – not even bluegrass, with its intricately woven textures and overlapping parts. So for Iaquinto, this new playlist is especially gratifying.
“With no drums or percussion, bluegrass musicians are always playing subtle but intricate parts,” he explains. “These can go unheard on other forms of audio, but with spatial audio, they are brought to the forefront.
“The vocals are brightened up and colored in a way that finally gives the recorded songs the respect and focus they deserve,” he goes on. “As someone who loves acoustic music, I am extremely happy with the level of quality provided by Dolby audio.”
For artists like Nicholson, the appreciation is perhaps more simple. Calling Dolby Atmos the “ultimate experience,” he praises the way fans can finally sense the attention to detail bluegrass musicians put into their work – a labor of love he likens to crafting “an amazing bouillabaisse.”
You might not know what’s in it, but you know it’s delicious.
“I’m proud of it. I’m proud for listeners to hear it,” Nicholson says, speaking of his music being recorded in Dolby Atmos, and placed on playlists like TIDAL’s Bluegrass: Dolby Atmos. “It is the way to enjoy the music with the utmost clarity. It’s a completely unique listening experience. Whether the average listener knows why, they do know that something is different. And in a good way.”
Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by Crossroads Label Group.