Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Album Review: Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind by Pam Asberry

Classically-trained pianist and composer Pam Asberry follows-up her summery Seashells in My Pocket album with a wintry Christmas album entitled Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind. Comprised of twelve solo piano compositions, the album features exquisitely elegant arrangements of both religious carols and secular holiday songs of varying moods and tones that range from delightfully cheery to solemnly reverent.

The album opens with an Italian Christmas carol composed by Pietro Yon in 1917 entitled “Gesu Bambino”, as it moves along at a brisk yet leisurely pace. The next piece is a traditional French carol entitled “Sing We Now of Christmas”, which boasts a beautifully expressive yet contemplative arrangement. Here, Asberry transitions smoothly from subtly starker chords in the lower register to more glistening notes in the higher register, before perfectly wrapping up the piece in a mysterious, minor-key figure. Likewise, Asberry impressively contrasts the deeper moods of pieces like these with that of more jubilant songs such as “Over the River and Through the Wood”, which showcases a delightfully carefree melody set to a gentle waltzing pace. This lovely piece evokes images of a sunny winter wonderland with its intermittently-placed, lightly twirling notes deftly mimicking snowflakes falling to the ground. One of my favorite pieces on the album is Asberry’s magnificent rendering of the 13th century French carol “March of the Kings”. Opening in a formidable manner with boldly striking chords, the composition eventually moves into a feathery, twinkly bridge towards the latter part, before gradually receding into its initially darker motif. Not surprisingly, with Asberry having formerly led a church choir from organ, those roots come through quite evidently on this remarkable piece, as one can easily imagine the reverent sound of the pipe organ (or in this case, her piano) reverberating throughout the church halls.

Likewise, Pam Asberry renders a couple of more accessibly familiar Christmas tunes such as “Away in a Manger” and “White Christmas”. However, overall she’s opted for more out-of-the-box and less frequently covered pieces here, which is a defining characteristic of the album that I especially enjoyed. Easily one of this year’s favorite holiday albums, Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind musically conveys both a reverence and cheerfulness that will surely delight the senses all season long! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available on Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Google Play.