It’s a tall order to review such an intensely personal album, which is what Eternal is for Kevin Wood (piano, keyboards, percussion). How does one capture in words the deep, spiritual commitment this talented artist has made to this project? Wood, joined by too many guest artists to recount, and featuring vocals from the cultures of Africa, Native America, Celtic, and India, as well as Gregorian chant, has delved deep into the connective thread of humanity and produced an album rich with global influence melded to a contemporary vision of New Age music, sometimes fused with light electronica, a la Deep Forest and Enigma. In-store play will absolutely generate interest in this fascinating recording.
It’s been years since I raved about pianist Warren’s As Years Go By, of which I wrote “…touching and evocative…laced with a tender melancholy or somber reflection, yet never to the point that the inherent charm and beauty of the music is lost amidst too much dread and sorrow.” On Beautiful Journey, Warren dials back the somberness while infusing these twelve instrumentals with a warmth and richness of emotion emphasized even more so by her near surreal control of nuance and tone. With able assistance from Imaginary Road guest artists, and the production team of Ackerman and Eaton, Warren has delivered a stellar follow-up to As Years Go By!
I'm at a loss for words in articulating how one of the founding artists in New Age music continues to reinvent himself. Here, master-class flutist Evenson teams with violist Phil Heaven and pianist Jeff Willson and the result is something unexpected to long-time followers of Evenson—a fusion of neo-classical romanticism with New Age beauty. While synthesizers, keyboards, and bass are credited in the liner notes, the crux of these sublime melodies rest with the three-aforementioned instruments. As sublime and gentle as the titular image denotes, these soundscapes are like floating down a river of supreme serenity, buoyed by blissful melodies.
As an artist-in-residence at Glacier National Park, Jill Haley (oboe, English horn, piano) had the opportunity to explore its amazing beauty and then translate her treks into yet another musical interpretation, adding to her canon of previous similar works. Haley, highly sought after as a guest artist, shows that she's much more than just a gifted accompanist. She is a truly special composer and interpreter of our country’s natural parks via music which conveys wonder, awe, and a unique beauty that defies description in written language. Guest players include husband David Cullen (guitar), son Dana Cullen (horn), as well as Michael Manring (bass) and Tom Eaton (keyboards, bass, guitar).
Lia Scallon’s Song of the Sidhe is a musical exploration of the mythic world of Faerie and its connection to humanity. This is a stunningly crafted, richly and deeply textured recording featuring the artist’s amazing vocal talents as well as a host of instrumentalist guest artists. Trying to encapsulate in my brief available words the magic that is contained in this album is impossible. For those who believe, this album will be a revelation, as Scallon’s vocals paint a passionate yet somewhat sorrowful portrait of hope against despair. Powerful but also sublime, the music and vocals are beguiling in their beauty.
This is a rather unique take on Native flute fusion music. Pamela Whitman plays the flutes and also ocarina and Rich Kurtz is present on various basses, cello, guitars, and electronica. There is no obscuring the haunting beauty of the Native flute, but some of the tracks on Ancient Vision take the usual staid flute into different, yet pleasant, directions. There are jazz influences present here, as well as neo-classical, and ambient, too, all which breathe new life into a genre that, while not played out in any way, shape or form, benefits from a new interpretation and execution—a re-invention of sorts of the traditional instrument revealing new wrinkles, all of them ear-pleasing.
Known more for his Native flute recordings, Joseph L. Young picks up his sax and carries it into unexplored territory on Every Moment—a literal redefinition of the New Age genre. Melding the soulful qualities of the instrument with layers of new age electronic keyboards yields a recording that is unique and ground-breaking. Seldom does an artist bring a new element to the forefront in such dramatic and accessible fashion as does Young here. Young integrates the sax into new age melodicism with style and aplomb throughout the album. Superbly layered electronic keyboards, rhythms, and textures merge seamlessly with the sax melodies and the magic that ensues is breathtakingly gorgeous.
Ambient artist Jeff Greinke has been on quite the musical voyage over the last few decades. I first fell in love with his music in 1993 (In Another Place). Since then, I have charted his various paths through a variety of ambient sub-genres, always impressed with his adventurous spirit melded to a unique musical vision. Before Sunrise features Greinke (keyboards, samples, electronics, processing) incorporating the talents of classical music artists (viola, violin, cello, trumpet, French horn, flute, clarinet) to craft music that is both beautiful and shadowy with elements of neo-classical merged with atmospheric ambient in ways that defy easy categorization. Greinke, as ever, is wholly accessible yet undeniably 100 percent an original.
Eric Tingstad’s transformation from one half of an iconic New Age duo (with woodwind artist Nancy Rumbel) to a full-on roots blues/folk artist is now complete on Electric Spirit. This album is a stone cold blast from start to finish, revealing Tingstad’s electric guitar chops at every turn. Whether re-inventing standards such as “Oh Shenandoah,” or “Over the Rainbow,” or parading his substantial folk/blues skills on originals, e.g. “Bessie,” “South to Carolina,” or “Flamingo Club,” Tingstad and his bandmates guarantee a good time will be had by all. Hands down it's one of the best releases of 2018 or I don’t know my stuff!
If you’ve never heard the magical musical strains of the Chapman stick, you're in for a treat on Michael Kollwitz's Serenity II. Somewhat like a cross between a guitar and an acoustic bass, the Chapman stick lends itself to particularly evocative music and Kollwitz is a maestro in its niche sub-genre. Melodic in a somewhat unconventional way, the Chapman stick is played fingerstyle, like a guitar, but it has a particularly special sonic characteristic that invites introspection without succumbing to non-musical posturing. Difficult to describe in words, but oh so easy to enjoy, that is the beauty of the Chapman stick in the right person’s hands, as it is here.