Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Album Review: Positano Songs by Will Ackerman

Review by Lissette Cascante

The strings on Will’s guitar vibrate with joy, warmth, and simplicity in his latest CD of all original acoustic compositions Positano Songs, a musical memoir of his years visiting Positano, a charming, iconic village on the famous Amalfi Coast of Italy. Having been to Italy and its Mediterranean coasts several times myself, I can relate to the magical feeling one is easily wrapped in. I recommend reading through the inside liner notes so you can enjoy Will’s musings of his favorite getaway to truly appreciate this album. If you’ve never been to Positano, this album will take you there. If you have been, this album will take you there again, but maybe in a more reflective and engaged way… 

After a long period of not writing, Will Ackerman, award-winning guitarist, producer, and founder of Windham Hill Records, went on a quest to find new musical inspiration: “I hadn’t written any new music in quite some time…, recounts Ackerman, “it occurred to me that if there were any place in this world where I could probably find inspiration and write again, it would be in Positano, Italy.” And so it was that in 2015, after immersing himself in the sights and sounds of that enchanting region and its people; conjuring up its dearest memories, Will brought back a lovely bouquet of songs infused with the fragrances of his beloved Positano. As Will puts it “Piece after heartfelt piece simply materialized.”

There are no fancy orchestrations, no loud crescendos, or exorbitant vocals to impress. Simple, heartfelt compositions expertly performed, and organic instrumentation sweep the listener away to a place of beauty, genuineness, and quiet reflection on the things that really matter.

Will plays three guitars in the album, his Froggy Bottom K Model six string, the Martin parlor guitar gifted to him by the late great Michael Hedges years ago, and a jumbo Steve Klein guitar for lead parts. Adding their talents are friends and accomplished musicians such as Tom Eaton (piano and bass), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Eugene Friesen (cello), Noah Wilding (vocals), and Jeff Oster (Flugelhorn). All songs are composed by Will Ackerman.

The album begins with "Nighttime in the Chapel", as Will’s solitary 6-string guitar gently invites the listener to sit alongside him, alone at midnight, in the chapel of the little village of Nocelle, where he and his wife Susan were married years before and watch the shadows dance happily on the wall.

Wafts of gratitude and joy engage our senses in “Our Wedding Song” as friends join in the celebration. With Charlie Bisharat contributing violin, Noah Wilding vocals, and Tom Eaton bass, a beautiful milestone moment is etched in memory and music.

Like awakening from a dream not being quite sure of reality from the surreal “Did I Dream This” enhanced by Eugene Friesen’s cello, Noah’s ethereal vocals, and Tom Eaton on piano and bass, recreates the lovely haunting, misty sensation of the moonlit night in Positano which Will describes through his slow reflective guitar; his memory of an elusive melody in the distance lingers on.

“The End of the Day”, a walk home alone after a nice evening dinner in this remote place, the glowing spirit of friendship lighting the way at night is artfully expressed through guitar chords, violin, and soft voices. “For Carmine” is a sweet melody dedicated to a longtime dear friend of Will’s and resident of Positano. With Will on parlor & 6 string guitars, Eugene Friesen on cello, and Tom Eaton on bass.

My favorite track is “This Is Where It Begins”. I really like the musical instrumentation combination, the way each come in at just the right time, the gliding violin, piano keys chiming in crystalline form, and as Will describes, that feeling of “coming home”. Envision mild weather, breezy, sunny days, delicious Mediterranean dinners, conversation, and laughter with cherished friends, sparkling moonlit nights.

The timeless, relaxed atmosphere of the region, reminiscent of "la dolce vita" continues in tracks like The Tyrrhenian Sea with pensive, quiet, repetitive guitar strokes reflecting on the ocean waves; and Passing Baldo's Tower inviting us to take in the beauty, while “For Giovanni” is dedicated to his dear friend and owner of the upstairs apartment where Will stayed at through the years every visit.

The album starts solo and ends solo because, after all, it’s Will’s journey. “I Had to Go There” is about the power of “point of contact” experience, reliving the memories i.e., one last time to the Chapel, last dinner at the place of his wedding dinner years ago (Dona Rosa in Montepertuso), smiles, and warm welcomes. We are grateful that Will found the inspiration he went searching for; and could return home ready to put all those warm feelings, emotions, and memories in his diary of musical interpretation to share with us in such a beautiful, simple, and expressive way. If I could describe Will Ackerman’s latest album Positano Songs in one word, it would be “simplicity.”

“…I’ve learned to shut out rational thought and simply feel…. “— Will Ackerman

Positano Songs is produced by Tom Eaton and Will Ackerman. Mixed and mastered by Tom Eaton. Recorded at Imaginary Road Studios, Windham County, Vermont. 

~Lissette Cascante for Auralscapes 

For more information please visit the artist's website. Positano Songs is also available at Amazon, iTunes, and more.