Saturday, April 27, 2019

Overview: Chapters by Stephen Wallack

Stephen Wallack exudes supreme poise and professionalism on the piano, with his exquisite album Chapters seemingly playing out like a sonic diary of nostalgic life experiences and scenic rural travels. Artfully intricate yet accessibly down-to-earth, his expressive compositions flow with continuity like an endless, winding river. If there’s one recent album I’d mostly highly recommend to fans of George Winston, it would be this one! ~Candice Michelle 

(Available at Amazon and other retail and streaming platforms.)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

An Interview with Lisa Swerdlow at the Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, AZ

Here’s an interview with solo piano composer Lisa Swerdlow, which was conducted at the recent Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. In this segment, we talk about her musical upbringing and eventual return to composing and recording following an extended hiatus, as well as the inspiration behind her most recent album Voyager.

Music from the albums Voyager and Equus Rising can be heard throughout this interview.

Album Review: Guide Me by Samer Fanek

Coming off the heels of his acclaimed debut album is Polish-Jordanian pianist, keyboardist and composer Samer Fanek with his sophomore release called Guide Me. Like its predecessor, these eleven elegant compositions range from expressively epic to pristinely peaceful while spanning styles of neoclassical, contemporary instrumental and at times even orchestral rock. Although Samer arranged and produced this album at his home studio in Daly City, California, one might get the impression that it was recorded with a live performance ensemble due to the imposing symphonic characteristic of the compositions.

Appropriately, the album opens with a piece called “Grand Opening” that lends itself to a classical-rock motif. Almost a third of the album is fashioned in this more dramatic style including the title piece, “Guide Me”, which showcases beautifully rippling piano figures in the higher register accompanied by a wistful waltzing stanza. Pieces such as these would bode exceptionally well as a grand stage performance complete with live orchestra.

The album also features three reflective solo piano pieces, which includes “Long Time Ago”, “Guardian” and the final cut, “Back to Hometown”. However, Samer seems to hit a perfect sweet spot on compositions that lie somewhere in-between the two contrasting moods. My absolute favorite of these is “Newborn”, which seemingly conveys a nostalgic reminiscence, and in my view, is Samer’s most impressive musical piece to date. You could say it’s like his “One Man’s Dream”, which should come as no surprise given that Yanni is one of Samer’s most noticeable influences.

Ringing true to the album’s title, Guide Me seems to have been guided by a divine hand throughout its creation. Often wrapped in tender elegance, Samer’s compositions speak to some of life’s most cherished memories – births, weddings, anniversaries and reunions – as well as the intermittent trials that everyone faces along the way. Particularly recommended to fans of Yanni, Nobuo Uematsu and the classical crossover genre, Guide Me is an album of hope, potential and purpose that elevates Samer Fanek to the next level as a composer! ~Candice Michelle

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

An Interview with Darin Mahoney at the Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, AZ

Here’s an interview with guitarist Darin Mahoney who describes his style as “heart and soul music”, which was conducted at the recent Heart Dance Records Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. In this segment, we talk about his musical roots, collaborative projects and a major life challenge that ignited a renewed artistic vision for him.

Music from the albums Transformation and Trialogue can be heard throughout this interview.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Aural Awakenings: Episode 29 (An Earth Day Special, Vol. 2)

Artist – Track – Album & Buy Link
Steve Gordon & Deborah Martin – Earth Dweller – Selections: Deborah Martin
Marcia Watson Bendo – Planting Moon – Woodland Moons
John Tinger – A Walk in the Woods – Between Two Worlds
George Winston – The Good Earth – Restless Wind
Medwyn Goodall – Sungrass – Earth Goddess
James Asher & Arthur Hull – Island Farewell – On the Good Foot
David Nevue – The Wind Blows Where It Wishes – In the Soft Light of Grace
Michael Kollwitz – Crystal Caverns – Serenity III
Scott Reich – Earth and Sky, Light and Love – Instar
Greg Maroney – Dreaming Tree – Secrets of the Sea
Ken McGarity – Sky to Earth Song – Breath of Life
Rémi Orts Project – Algae – Peaceful Moments (The Ocean Story) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Album Review: Blue Moon Rising by Acoustic Ocean

Acoustic Ocean was originally founded by Bette Phelan and the late Peggy Morgan. Having been musical partners for 40 years, the duo released a total of three albums and toured together for 20 years before Peggy sadly passed away in 2016. Continuing in the same visionary spirit as the project’s musical legacy, Acoustic Ocean’s fourth album, entitled Blue Moon Rising, is tenderly dedicated to both Peggy Morgan and Bette’s mother, Nancy Phelan.

Inspired by the Hawaiian Islands and holistic healing arts, Blue Moon Rising is comprised of eleven compositions spanning approximately 48 minutes. Throughout its course, reflective acoustic guitar melodies are woven among atmospheric soundscapes that incorporate calming nature sounds.

Instruments played by the versatilely talented Bette Phelan include fretless bass, electric guitar, Ebow, Celtic whistle, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, banjo and piano. Additionally, Bette lends soothing wordless vocals while Kay Aldrich provides peaceful cello throughout.

Highlights include the opening piece, “A Hui Hou (Until We Meet Again)”, which seemingly bodes as the perfect homage to Phelan’s longtime musical partner. This somewhat wistful yet warmly comforting tune showcases softly cascading guitar accompanied by gentle strings, of which perhaps can be likened to the refreshing serenity of a light rain shower.

One of my favorite compositions herein is the title track, “Blue Moon Rising”, which opens with the nocturnal sounds of rainstick and chirping crickets. Bearing a notable Celtic touch expressed by its warmly engaging acoustic ensemble, this enchanting piece brings-to-mind cozy images of a campfire in the woods.

Bette’s wordless vocal intonations beautifully accentuate other personal favorites, such as the mesmerizingly oceanic “Deep Grace / Scarborough Fair” and the melodically memorable “Love Is a Force Field”.

Lending itself as the perfect relaxation soundtrack while never once descending into forgettable background music, Blue Moon Rising boasts subtly layered acoustics and spacious organic soundscapes of pristine beauty and reflective soulfulness. Surely Peggy Morgan would be proud of Bette Phelan’s profoundly touching musical accomplishment, as this one is certainly destined to be among this year’s best acoustic albums! ~Candice Michelle

This album is available at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby.