Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Album Review: Awaken Me by Kimberly Haynes

Kimberly Haynes is a singer and songwriter whose debut album, Awaken Me (subtitled Songs from the Heart of a Seeker), invites the listener on a soulful journey of discovering the sacred space within and creating a conscious connection with spirit. Co-produced by recording artist and multi-instrumentalist, David Vito Gregoli, the talented virtuoso plays many instruments on this album – including acoustic and electric guitars, South American charango, bass, mandolin, sitar, banjo, piano, synthesizer, udu, drums, percussion, bells, Native American and world flutes, Gopichand and kalimba. An impressive line-up of contributing artists also includes pianist Peter Kater, vocalists Tina Malia and Aeone, Native American flute player Al Jewer, accordionist Andy Mitran and percussionist Byron Metcalf among a handful of others – who additionally lend instruments such as violin, tabla, dulcimer, didgeridoo and hang-drum. Kimberly provides both lead and backing vocals on the album’s eleven compositions – drawing much of her singing inspiration from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss and Sarah McLachlan.

The title track opens with the harmonizing sounds of a singing bowl and chimes, followed by Kimberly softly singing an ethereal “Om” mantra. Serving up a seamless fusion of east-meets-west, the composition leads into a repeated phrase of “awaken me” amidst relaxing guitar and ethnic percussion. The earthy and grounding nature of this piece continues on “The Dream” – another lovely number that begins with breezy celestial tones – before leading out into a contemporary acoustic arrangement entwined with eastern percussive elements. Here Kimberly sings a soulful melody accompanied by guitar, shakers, string instruments and additional vocal features. Another one of my favorites is “Great Divide”; this piece initially begins with acoustic guitar and native flutes, which are soon followed by our lead songstress who is eventually joined by harmonious backing vocals. Celebratory and soothing, it particularly reminds me of a song one might perform with friends while gathering around a campfire under a starlit sky. The mesmerizing “Do I Dare” is another personal favorite; here Kimberly sings a heartfelt tune over a diverse array of instruments that include digeridoo, native flutes and exotic percussion. The album closes with an alternate “earth mix” version of this wonderful composition – placing a heavier emphasis on its sacred semblance and trance-like mood.

A blissfully rewarding debut, Awaken Me boasts warmly lush arrangements and richly heartfelt melodies that are conveyed by poetic and down-to-earth lyrics. Many ancient musical elements are deftly woven into these contemporary vocal arrangements of soulful expression and sleek professionalism. There’s a folksy quality to much of the music – as it feels set in the countryside and far removed from busy city life – with Kimberly’s voice and singing style often reminding me of Joni Mitchell’s (especially when she hits the higher notes). A divinely inspirational gift that’s evocative of feminine power, I particularly recommend this album to fans of sacred vocal, adult contemporary and world fusion styles of music! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon and iTunes.