Friday, December 24, 2021

Album Review: This Beautiful Chaos by Trevor Gordon Hall

Review by Abdul Yamani

A deep, resonant, and pensive guitar melody in “Chasing the Chills”, the first track, sends a chill down one’s spine and introduces us to Trevor Gordon Hall’s latest album This Beautiful Chaos.

“Life is crazy and chaotic, but it is beautiful. We all need to be reminded of that from time to time” expounds Trevor of the dual nature of his album’s title. Given current world events at the time of this writing, no truer words were ever spoken.

Trevor Gordon Hall is an acoustic instrumentalist, gifted guitarist, composer and performer from Philadelphia, USA who allows his guitar to articulate his innermost thoughts, ideas, and expressions. His style ranges from edgy driving rhythms to delicate melodic themes. The album This Beautiful Chaos is a product of Trevor’s life experiences and travels poured into the notes, chords, and rhythms of his music. Trevor’s album features 6 different guitars: Standard Acoustic, Baritone Acoustic, Nylon String, High Strung Guitar, Electric Guitar, and a Portuguese instrument named Viola Amarantina. The variety in sound and rhythm create a unique blend of styles which keep the listener engaged and eager for what follows.

Wonderful surprises please the ear in tracks like the bluesy, uplifting “Ontic Blues”, and the melancholic ambient guitar sounds of “At Peace With Struggle”, a gentle reminder to “let go” of whatever tensions encumber our journey in life.

Because of the multiplicity in the techniques and instruments he employs, Trevor Gordon Hall’s music can be called easy, subtle, profound, abstract, uplifting, melancholy, introspective, yet infused with an overriding sense of contentment and purpose. The ingenious song titles tell as many stories as the varied instrumentation and styles he so skillfully displays.

Trevor Gordon Hall is widely recognized for his invention of the “Kalimbatar” — a guitar that combines a customized African finger piano, called the Kalimba. Trevor has garnered the admiration of and received countless praises from a who’s who in the music industry. Whether it’s through his solo work, international touring, new collaborations or teaching students, he thrives on the discovery and harnesses life’s possibilities.

On top of a touring calendar that has taken him through 17 countries and counting, his growing discography has amassed millions of listens and views through streaming and social media, allowing his music to connect across borders and languages. This Beautiful Chaos is a stunning musical escapade which amazes, calms, and inspires from start to finish.

~Abdul Yamani for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Trevor Gordon Hall's website. This Beautiful Chaos is available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Aural Awakenings: Episode 51 – A Peaceful Soundscape for a Winter Wonderland

A 2-hour episode of peaceful music for a winter wonderland.
(Photo credit: Tim Kuret Photography.)

0:00:26 / Enya / Trains and Winter Rains / And Winter Came
0:04:02 / Ciro Hurtado / Andean Celtic / Luna
0:08:03 / Stephen Peppos / Peppermint Garden / Botanical
0:13:15 / Laurence Furr / Where Angels Tread / Upon the Corner of the Moon
0:17:07 / Ann Sweeten / Arctic Dance / Change Is In The Wind
0:22:33 / Cantus / Vuelie / Northern Lights
0:25:49 / Richard Bone / The Owl Grove / Valengraph
0:30:21 / Marcia Watson Bendo / Snow Moon / Woodland Moons
0:36:42 / Trine Opsahl & Josefine Opsahl / Touched by an Angel / The Infinite Between Us
0:43:00 / Kurt Reiman / Evening Snowfall / North Maple Road
0:45:40 / Jon Mark / A Winter’s Story by the Firelight / The Standing Stones of Callanish
0:48:45 / Sting / Gabriel’s Message / If On A Winter’s Night…
0:51:15 / Trevor Gordon Hall / Chase the Chills / This Beautiful Chaos
0:53:57 / Jill Haley / Frost Tinged Evergreens / The Waters of Glacier
0:59:16 / Pam Asberry / Snow / Twelvemonth
1:02:42 / Bill Leslie / Scottish Lullaby / Celtic Peace
1:05:55 / Charles David Denler / A Winter’s Memory / Portraits In Season Live
1:08:53 / Loreena McKennitt / Snow / A Midwinter’s Night Dream
1:13:53 / Dino Malito / Aurora / Relax
1:17:38 / Michael Borowski / First Snow / Peace Valley
1:21:38 / Sherry Finzer / Wind Spirit / Connections
1:27:56 / Mediaeval Baebes / Angel of God / Prayers of the Rosary
1:30:48 / Lisa Lynne & Aryeh Frankfurter / Mysty Waltz / Harmony House
1:36:28 / Derek Wille / Cold Day / An Approaching Storm
1:41:03 / Ashley Davis / These Winter Days / Songs of the Celtic Winter
1:45:03 / Dave Eggar / Russian Winter / Awakening
1:47:58 / Pangaea Projekt / The Night Sky / Winter Vol. VII
1:50:27 / Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy / Winter Prayer / Whisper

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Album Review: Colors by Stephen Wallack

Review by Marilyn Torres

Listening to Colors by Stephen Wallack, I was struck by a sense of personal involvement in each composition, a sense that, for each piece I could imagine a place or person important to the artist. Beginning with “Birch Lake”, Wallack taps a few trickling keys for the first minute and a half before a cascade of notes enters like wind-swept water, followed by the return of calm to finalize the piece.

In “Josh”, there is the steady repetition of the notes with highs and lows inserted here and there so the listener can identify the ebbs and flows of a person’s life.

The repeating stanzas and soft trailing notes in “Colors”, “Stunning” and “Dreams”, reflect the influence George Winston’s work has had on Wallack’s musical style. 

“Brave” begins with a slow and pensive pace but gently accelerates with a determined stride before returning to the slower melody at the finale. Similarly, on “Earth”, Wallack directs the keys to glide along as if airborne just above land. Suddenly I was reminded of a recurring dream of flying, and the feeling of freedom and possibilities before me.

For the concluding “Hope”, “Marlon” and “Midnight”, Wallack presents a fast paced and strong performance which delivers what the first title states - hope.

In this inexplicable state the world finds itself in, it’s important to look for the hopeful and the good. Stephen Wallack decided to capture his recollections and life events from the previous year with this compilation of intimate musical pieces, and dedicated it to his nephew Marlon who suffered brain trauma as a baby. Marlon, who with the help of his mother created the cover art, is an ever-present symbol of what is possible and positive for Wallack, and with this musical effort Wallack has delivered these qualities to us.

~Marilyn Torres for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Stephen Wallack's website. Colors is also available at Amazon, Apple Music, and more.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Album Review: Connections by Sherry Finzer

Review by Lissette Cascante

Phoenix-based, classically trained flutist Sherry Finzer has received many accolades and awards for her musical contributions primarily in the relaxation/meditation genre. Her branding encompasses the use of a collection of low flutes, including alto, bass, and contrabass flutes, as well as a variety of Native American-style and world flutes. Often wind instruments are mixed with sacred chants, ethereal sounds, natural and other ethnic arrangements to create her soundscapes. Sherry has recorded, toured, and performed with a variety of accomplished artists whose collaboration has also influenced her unique sound and style. She has released over twenty-seven solo and collaborative albums and numerous singles.

Sherry’s latest solo release, Connections, was inspired by the legendary American flautist Paul Horn who was a pioneer of world and contemporary instrumental music as well as a practitioner of transcendental meditation. Sherry is a firm believer in the power of music to aid in the healing process. Connections is a fitting title for this album given the uncertainty of the current times we are living in; many have suffered isolation, illness or tragedy and are yearning for the support and strength which comes from being able to share and connect with others.

After starting to livestream on the Insight Timer Meditation App in 2020, Sherry began connecting with thousands of fans and followers who shared testimonies of just how much her previous recordings, and her livestreams, were helping them through the grieving process, letting go of stress, improve sleep, or aided in lessening their physical pain. She wanted to share her gratitude and have this recording be about her listeners. All songs on the album were either created in memory of loved ones who have passed, or for someone who currently uses Sherry's music as part of their daily therapy or healing regimen. The flutes used were selected by the participants – each person selecting the flute that resonated with them most.

The album’s seventeen tracks take the listener through a continuum of healing sound and light. The first track “Resilience” serves as the impetus to elevate us to that higher place above our cares, and concerns. The song titles speak to us of familiar comforts like nature, water, new days, blessings, peace, journeying, coming home, connecting, and communing with Spirit. With each subsequent song one can cast off all encumbrances, negative energies, and unhealthy emotions.

Caught up in the gentle whirlwind of her flute sounds and melodies, one feels a sense of release and weightlessness, like a boundless floating experience. The experience is so blissful, like the end of a massage therapy or stretch/cool-down session, you’ll wish, as I did, to remain in that state indefinitely. Perhaps why some listeners say they listen to Sherry’s music 24/7. How wonderful that Sherry chooses to use and to share her musical talents with the world as a channel to bring comfort, relief, and much needed healing.

Connections is the third solo flute release in Sherry Finzer's "Naked Flute" series recorded at The Tank. Her music can be heard under her name as well as her groups Majestica and Evenfall on various international radio programming, international airlines, and overhead music channels.

Besides composing and recording, Sherry is the founder and CEO of the Heart Dance Records label featuring musicians from around the world with a mission of creating music for peace and wellness. She is also founder of the Higher Level Media promotions company, as well as one of the three founding members of the Mindful Music Association. Sherry live streams weekly on the Insight Timer meditation app.

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Sherry Finzer's website. Connections is also available at Bandcamp, Amazon, and more.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Album Review: Eleven After Midnight by Holland Phillips

Review by Lissette Cascante

They say the best writing happens in the nighttime hours and I heartily concur. The quiet respite from the bustle and distractions of the day which the night offers allows for inspiration and creativity to flow more freely. Perhaps that is why every song on musician Holland Phillips’ latest album Eleven After Midnight, to quote the artist, “was created in the hours between midnight and dawn’s light”.

Holland Phillips is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who has been recording and producing electronic and contemporary instrumental music since the mid-nineties. Holland uses keyboards, flutes, electric and acoustic guitars to weave tapestries of beautiful melodies, and meaningful, heartwarming songs. Eleven After Midnight is Holland’s tenth album released in 128 countries in September 2021 and can best be described as a journey through the darkness into the light.

“Lights Off”, the first track on the album, with its crystalline melody seems to tuck us gently into our own safe space as the soothing piano and synthesizer arrangements in “All That We Are” and “That Distant Horizon” emanate security and comfort as we begin our conscious dream experience.

The pace picks up a bit in “Stranger Dreams” with its haunting melody fit for its title and the elucidation is left to the listener. “Wolf Moon Rising” seems to evoke the mystery and magic contained in the first full moon of the year, named after howling wolves, as it rises in the cold January night sky.

“Landing On Mars” with its easy rhythm, synthesizer strings and keyboard arrangement creates for me the feeling of travel and reminds how our dreams can take us anywhere we want to go. Pretty and reflective summarizes the piano and synth melody in “From The Music Fields”.

The title track, “Eleven After Midnight” is a more dramatic piece, with an almost cinematic feel. Deep emotions stirred up in the middle of the night recalling past events, perhaps. The song speaks to me of the need to redeem the time while the clock is still ticking, maybe why the next track that follows “Calling Us Home” featuring very nice piano work and flute accompaniment also has intense rhythm and determined pace.

The album concludes with two more beautiful piano compositions, “Pieces of You” and “At Night’s End” exuding a melancholia of dreams and memories which often visit us in the wee hours of the morning.

I really enjoyed relaxing and ruminating to the lovely tunes in this album. I felt the song titles, arrangements and melodies allowed me to form my own dreamy illustrations.

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Holland Phillips' website. Eleven After Midnight is also available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Album Review: Divine Tides by Stewart Copeland + Ricky Kej

Review by Marilyn Torres

The collaboration of Stewart Copeland (legendary drummer of the British rock band The Police) and acclaimed Indian music composer Ricky Kej in their album Divine Tides, brings us a majestic experience of sounds that capture the essence of being. If one should write what one knows, then Copeland and Kej have played what they feel in the most excellent way. 

The percussion takes center stage from the start with strong timpani in “Wonders of Life”, and fuels the eagerness for what might await ‘round the next musical note as Rasika Shekar’s vocals take over with classic Indian melodic form.

“Himalayas” is next and it renders an ethereal breadth with its chant beginning followed by Varijashree Venugopal’s vocals, which scale and crest with momentary scat reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald. The next two pieces, “Our Home” and “Art of Devotion”, also make use of timpani, sitar and Indian vocalization, and then “Pastoral India” with its uptempo invites us to dance.

“I Am Change” duplicates the melody of “Himalayas”, however the vocals are provided by Salim Merchant this time and his voice impresses as a call to action.

In the grand “A Prayer”, we are treated to the powerful blend of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Soweto Gospel Choir fittingly elevating the tone to the skies as the piece ends.

For “Gandhi”, the guitar, played by Santhosh Chandran, lends a melancholy edge and guides the listener through the various vocals and other instruments with tender but surefooted control.

As the opus concludes with “Mother Earth”, the strings make the perfect companion to the various vocals which climax on a high note; proper indeed!

~Marilyn Torres for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit the Divine Tides website; also available at Amazon, Apple Music, and more.

Album Review: Potential by Raphael Groten

Review by Abdul Yamani

Raphael Groten is a Vermont-based, accomplished guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, sound engineer, composer, and recording artist whose intuition led him to discover his purpose of being. A firm believer in the healing power of music, Raphael was compelled to create healing music years ago following an impactful life experience related to his young son. He also composes music for children and families.

Raphael has received critical acclaim for his acoustic recordings produced by Will Ackerman, founder of the Windham Hill Record label, and Imaginary Road Studios. Ackerman remarks that “Raphael paints pictures of peace and contemplation and creates musical worlds that one longs to visit.”

In Potential, Raphael’s first self-produced album, his musical styles encompass a variety of genres and persuasions, exploring the roots of the Americas, and the sounds of the African continent. Raphael calls it “world medicine groove.”

Keeping the listener engaged as an active participant in this rêverie are Raphael’s guitar, and a delightful assortment of instruments from around the world such as Ukulele, Bamboo Flute, Kalimba, Hand Pan, percussion, and gong, sprinkled with Raphael’s unique vocals and chants. Nature sounds woven throughout the album affirm his love of the natural world and his appreciation for the many creatures with whom we share this planet, which in their own way offer us healing and guidance.

The still sound of the Gong opens the album as a bamboo flute joins in followed by an ambient guitar gently nudging us to cross an imaginary threshold and “Wander” into worlds of fantastic sounds and rhythms. With deep drumming vibes, flute, handpan and a myriad of other percussion instruments, the title track “Potential” which follows, quickly thrusts us into a sort of tribal trance making it easy to imagine ourselves the guest to a festive celebration somewhere in the African expanse.

The third track features Raphael singing a chant-like prayer to the “Great Spirit” in a deep raspy voice; you’ll feel the emotion engulf your soul in this firepower of spiritual intensity.

“Within” will whisk you away with its sounds of ocean waves, bells, bamboo flute and deep vibrations to an imaginary faraway island where you can connect in solitude with your whole being and find that calm space within.

A wonderful meshing of flute, ukulele and kalimba carry the main melody in “Care” while in “Melt” we’re entranced once again by Raphael’s voice in indigenous chant. “River’s Edge” features flowing water sounds, guitar, bells, percussion, flute and soft rhythms. Rainforest bird sounds in “Pause” tug at our wandering spirit as a variety of instruments join in to create a hypnotic state of oneirism. Kalimba and percussion perk us up in “Percolate” as Raphael’s voice highlights in tribal chants. “Call” features handpan, jungle bird sounds, vibrating instruments, drenched in soft deep tones.

“Aft” is my favorite in the album and features Raphael’s fantastically brilliant guitar licks in a backdrop of gong and other world instruments. “Bear Cave” is a nice musical groove and sound environment exploration. “Release” features guitar, flute, rattle, deep breath vocals and lyrics which invite the listener to release all fear and breathe in freedom without trepidation. And lastly, in “Twin Eagle” the powerful flute seems to call in repetitive melody to our winged friends on high; tell us stories of ages past, that we may be truly liberated from nature’s regrets, learn the lessons, and live in a more conscious, purposeful, and peaceful way.

All of the music was composed, performed, produced and engineered by Raphael Groten in his Vermont studio. Potential is a unique sensory and spiritual excursion which takes the listener on a melodic imaginary adventure to remote places, wildlife, music, rhythms, cultures, and traditions, relaxing the mind and nourishing the soul.

~Abdul Yamani for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Raphael Groten's website. Potential is available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Aural Awakenings: Episode 50

A refreshing 2-hour blend of spa, world & contemporary instrumental music!
(Photo credit: Tim Kuret Photography.)

0:00:21 / Wouter Kellerman & David Arkenstone / Desert Moon / Pangaea
0:05:16 / Wivajoy / By the Moon / By the Moon
0:09:01 / Suzanne Teng & Gilbert Levy / Whisper / Whisper
0:13:58 / Brian Hagen / Starlight Dance / Portraits
0:17:24 / Nancy Shoop-Wu / Night Rainbow / Full Bloom
0:20:53 / Greg Maroney & Sherry Finzer / Cave of the Wind / Desert Suite
0:26:14 / Stewart Copeland + Ricky Kej / Wonders of Life / Divine Tides
0:30:24 / Will Ackerman, Jeff Oster & Tom Eaton / While There’s Time / Brothers
0:34:24 / Trevor Gordon Hall / This Beautiful Chaos / This Beautiful Chaos
0:40:20 / Jill Haley / Forest Sings for Joy / Wrapped in Light
0:46:16 / Derek Wille / Persistence / An Approaching Storm
0:50:00 / Laurence Furr / Upon the Corner of the Moon / Upon the Corner of the Moon
0:55:05 / 2002 / Sacred Mountain / Hummingbird
0:59:46 / Mars Lasar / Mendocino Love / Coastal Escape
1:03:40 / Rick Sparks / Highland Road / Bella
1:07:59 / Roger Kellaway / Autumn / Myndstream Fall Flight
1:11:37 / Don Latarski / Nootka / The Measure of Silence
1:17:00 / Mychael Danna & Tim Clément / Cootes Paradise / North of Niagra
1:22:45 / Album Spotlight: Potential by Raphael Groten
1:23:53 / Raphael Groten / Potential / Potential
1:27:38 / Opium Moon / Dream / Night + Day
1:33:29 / Bodhiheart / Mystery / Love Rules
1:41:30 / Sherry Finzer / Resilience / Connections
1:45:40 / Stephen Wallack / Stunning / Colors
1:49:55 / Lia Scallon / Return to Lemuria / Return of the Star Elders

Monday, December 13, 2021

Album Review: Bella by Rick Sparks

Review by Lissette Cascante

Hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, ASCAP pianist and composer Rick Sparks’ soft music albums are heard worldwide on hundreds of radio stations, streaming channels, broadcast and online radio outlets.

Rick’s latest release Bella, his 7th album since 2014, was inspired by a 19th century painting (featured on the cover art) of a little girl looking up in prayerful expectation by Italian artist Roberto Ferruzzi who lived from 1853 to 1934.

The title track opens this exquisite listening experience, successfully capturing the essence of the painter’s intention in his portrait of beautiful Bella, as synth sounds of wordless angelic voices, and a soft piano are wrapped up in a dreamy melody, evoking a childlike innocence. Rick Sparks says “I am thankful to have found such a lovely inspiration for Bella's music. I very much desired that the album would reflect her transcendent beauty and the hope contained in her prayers.”

The album contains 7 new originals plus clever arrangements of three other songs such as Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” which Rick interprets with crystal clear finesse and tenderness as flute and piano carry this unique melody. In “Smiling” taken from a current Omega watch TV commercial jingle, Rick pairs his piano magic with angelic synth voices adding a sweet softness, like the joy in a child’s smile. And in classical composer Antonin Dvorak’s poignant “Going Home” (from his New World Symphony No 9) Rick’s maestro arrangement for synthesizer and piano exudes a message of hope and reunion so many hearts yearn for in today’s world. This is one of my favorites in the album.

“Twilight Dreams” features pan flute, bells, and angelic voices. A dreamy composition envisions for me the beauty of a child in blissful slumber.

“Autumn Rain” speaks of a quiet, reflective moment in the decaying season of a year nearing its end. Beautiful yet melancholy, inviting a walk in the rain or gazing out of a window watching the leaves fall softly in the autumn wind.

“Highland Road” is a lovely Scottish flavored tune with pan flute, wordless voices and strings, piano, trumpet, transporting the listener to the scenic hills, open skies, and centuries old castles full of mystery, history and tales of a majestic land.

“Last Goodbye” with its ethereal synth sequence is a song for pondering on life’s losses, parting physically or in spirit, hopefully keeping the flame alive, as “A New World” melody takes you safely to your destination moving onward to uncharted territories.

With a clear, serene piano melody, Bella beckons us again in “Her Prayer”. It’s as if Rick pulled Bella out of her silence to utter her prayer, words of reassurance and serenity exquisitely expressed through musical interpretation.

Bella is a musical and spiritual experience which invites us to seek a strength beyond our physical confines and reach for that peace which passes all understanding, empowering us to remain content, resilient, and hopeful even in the midst of trials, losses and hardship.

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Rick Sparks' website. Bella is also available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.

Album Review: Portraits by Brian Hagen

Review by Marilyn Torres

The newest work by Brian Hagen, his album Portraits, is a collection of all original piano pieces which in one word can be summed up as pretty! That may seem like a plain description, however it is much deeper. The individual pieces are full of beautiful moments that reach out and connect the listener to senses and memories long overlooked.

Beginning with “Iridescence”, a light and airy piece, the mood invites us to exhale and enjoy the moment. “A Time For Love” displays a Manilow-esque sensibility and a feeling of familiarity. “You Are My Everything” and “Forever Love” are beautiful love songs that made me wish I had the gift of lyricism! 

“Regrets” and “The Love We Had, The Love We Lost”, takes the listener into the past, as in looking through a photo album full of life events and snapshots of times shared. In “The Unforgiven”, the journey into the past seems to bring us face to face with the raw and stark realization of failure.

In contrast to the pieces mentioned above, the rest of the album offers comfort and acceptance; for who we are, our flaws, and the beauty of life. Coming full circle with “The Peace Within”, we are again in a light and calm place ready to enjoy the pretty moments of life. 

~Marilyn Torres for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit Brian Hagen's website.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Album Review: Return of the Star Elders by Lia Scallon

Review by Candice Michelle

Born in Ireland and currently residing in Australia, Lia Scallon is an award-winning composer, producer and singer who’s released several albums through her Sounds of Sirius music label. Additionally, she leads “sacred travels” group tours and workshops that have taken her to enthralling locations around the world including the deserts of the American Southwest, jungles of Mexico, rainforests of Australia, and landscapes of Ireland.

Comprised of 9 compositions spanning just under an hour and 20 minutes, Return of the Star Elders, much like its predecessors, is inspired by Lia's mystical pursuits with an overarching theme of Pleiades and Sirius star-lore.

The album’s line-up of contributing musicians includes Nigel Pegrum (flute, keyboard, percussion and ambient sound sculpture), David Hudson (digeridoo, aboriginal vocals), Kirk Steel (keyboards), Simon McMenamin (violin and viola), Nerace (keyboards), and Ben Hakalitz (drums).

However, the most distinguishable feature throughout is Lia’s soprano vocals which variably conjure images of a fairy godmother singing in the woodlands, to that of an ancient temple Oracle incanting from high on a mountaintop.

Inside the liner notes are references to ancestral legends of diverse cultures and civilizations from antiquity (including those of Greek, Irish, Egyptian, Maya, Polynesian, Native American and Australian Aboriginal peoples), albeit related through the modern lens of theosophical doctrines and ancient astronaut theory, rather than from a scholarly standpoint of these various civilizations’ own mytho-historical origins. Nevertheless, from an aesthetic perspective, Lia’s artful compositions are rich with dazzlingly enchantment that effectively carry the listener away on a peacefully poetic and magical journey to sacred sites and mysterious places of natural wonder across the globe.

Subtle shamanic percussion underlies pieces like “Arrival of the Star Elders” and “Ancient Kachina Wisdom”, on which Lia’s primal-like chants seemingly echo throughout a nocturnal valley beneath a brilliant canopy of stars.

Compositions like “Isle of the Druids” and “Return to Lemuria” weave ethereal invocations and soothing ocean waves into a mist-filled soundscape that perfectly paint an idyllic environment tended to by nymphs, fairies and unicorns.

Listeners are also transported to the Himalayas on “Tibetan Skygods”, the Australian Outback on “Uluru Galactic Portal”, and the jungles of Central America on “Temple of the Maya”.

A mesmerizing audio-visual experience that can be described perhaps as “Constance Demby meets Medwyn Goodall”, Return of the Star Elders is quintessential earth-centered music well-suited for stargazing, spa therapy and communing with nature.

~Candice Michelle for Aural Awakenings

For more information please visit the the Sounds of Sirius website. Return of the Star Elders is also available at Amazon, iTunes and more.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Album Review: Full Bloom by Nancy Shoop-Wu

Review by Lissette Cascante 

In her second full-length album poignantly titled Full Bloom, classically trained, symphony musician, and award nominated violinist Nancy Shoop-Wu showcases her many talents and versatility as composer, singer-songwriter, arranger, and violinist extraordinaire. Nancy not only embraces her classical background but also her affinity for contemporary melodicism inspired by the beautiful surroundings of her home in the Hawaiian Islands. “Full Bloom came out of a time of personal expansion and growth for me. The songs are a reflection of my inner journey over these past few years, and they are songs of beauty, freedom, dreams and hope” shares Nancy. The result is a beautiful symphonia of ethereal, dreamy melodies that convey serenity and contentment throughout. The title track opens the album with a nice, laid-back blend of vocals, violin, percussion, piano and violin.

Other tracks such as "Night Rainbow", "Flying Away", "Olinda Winds" and "Golden Leaves" feature uplifting and playful, flowing piano and violin tunes that beckon the listener to explore the sense of wonder, gratitude and anticipation of new days, seasons, and possibilities.

More serene, evocative melodies evolve in tracks such as "Dreams" and "Serenade" as a gentle piano and violin engage in peaceful, musical dialogue.

In "Beautiful", Nancy offers up a deeply moving expression of love for her mother who passed away in April 2021 with a gorgeous, melodiously tender composition for piano and violin.

"Angel Above Me" features Nancy’s beautiful voice expressing the lyrics she penned as her violin artfully conveys a faith and hope beyond the physical realm.

All songs on the album were composed and arranged by Nancy Shoop-Wu and feature not only herself as a violin and vocal soloist, but she also shares the stage with Derek Nakamoto on piano and Cello (Qiele) Guo on Cello, while Aidan Carroll contributes on Bass; Mitchell Long on Guitars, and Peter Korpela adds Congas and Percussion. 

Full Bloom is a beautiful symphonia of ethereal, dreamy melodies that convey serenity and contentment.

~Lissette Cascante for Aural Awakenings 

For more information, please visit Nancy Shoop-Wu's website. Full Bloom is also available at Amazon, Apple Music and more.