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Lead Me Home by Camille Nelson
- posted by Dyan Garris - New Age CD on 11/2/2017
Lead Me Home
Camille Nelson’s newest release, “Lead Me Home,” is a New Age “crossover,” in that it is not traditionally “New Age,” yet not traditionally classical. It’s different, contemporary, refreshing, and undeniably uplifting to the spirit. That in itself makes it a perfect fit for the “New Age” category, and at the same time, it’s also a perfect fit for the Christian holiday season.
Camille is an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist and violinist specializing in acoustic-driven folk music. She is a gifted musician, hailing from a musical family; her father a violinist and her mother a professional opera singer.
Her brother, Steven Sharp Nelson, of the YouTube sensation, The Piano Guys, is a musical guest on “Lead Me Home,” as well as Ryan Shupe of Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband. Adding harmonic resonance is a small string ensemble, including another of Camille’s brothers, Matthew, plus sister-in-law, Julie, on violin.
“Lead Me Home” is 12 tracks, 45 minutes, consisting of a mix of traditional and original, primarily instrumental hymns. As a Christian myself, I am familiar with, but am not particularly fond of traditional hymns for purposes of listening pleasure. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this album.
The album is a true and delightful surprise all through, rich in beauty and brimming with unpretentious authenticity. There is not one shred of “preachiness” here. Just love.
The album opens with what is perhaps the most famous and most familiar of all folk hymns, “Amazing Grace.” A rich, flowing, full-bodied, acoustic version, featuring Camille on violin, guitar, and piano, the interpretation is also interspersed now and again with her dreamy, ethereal vocals interwoven throughout. This song nicely sets the table for the rest of the aural feast. We feel a genuine sense of awe, deep peace, connection, and a definite longing for all that comes next.
The first thing that stands out straight away about the entire album, “Lead Me Home,” is the superior production quality. All of the arrangements are outstanding as well. Camille is signed with label, Stone Angel Music, and worked with executive producer Paul Cardall and producer and engineer Trevor Price to create this album. Stone Angel Music is an independent, award-winning record label and premier recording studio in Salt Lake City, Utah. They all obviously did quite a lot of things right in this production, as “Lead Me Home” charted #8 on the Billboard chart.
The stunningly beautiful first track, “Amazing Grace,” is followed appropriately with the also very beautiful, “How Great Thou Art,” another well-known favorite of hymn lovers.
Track 5, “Adelia,” is a lovely, melodic, delicate number, reminiscent of innocence and lullabies. Very relaxing and soothing. And with the exception of the breathtakingly beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” it is my favorite track on the album; one I found myself listening to again and again.
A well-known Latter-day Saint hymn, "Come, Come, Ye Saints," is track 8, and features Camille’s brother, Steven Sharp Nelson, “The Cello Guy,” of The Piano Guys. It’s a little heavier feeling hymn, originally penned by William Clayton in the year 1846. However, it’s uplifting in its own way, as it gently and persistently reminds us that no matter where we are, “all is well” as we travel on our journey.
The title track, “Lead Me Home,” track 9, is graceful and elegant and perfectly captures and embodies all of the heart-centered feelings of what “home” ought to be.
Track 10, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” a classic hymn from the 18th century, whose main theme is “divine grace,” is a sweet, flowy, richly textured, and beautifully arranged song featuring the superb artistry of Ryan Shupe on fiddle and mandolin. We can literally feel the grace shining down prolifically upon us.
The final track on the album, track 12, “Count Your Many Blessings,” is like a gentle beam of light reminding us softly that wherever we are or whatever we’re facing, to “let go and let God.” It’s the perfect ending to this lovely album, which is infused throughout with sweet passion, light, and love. Absolutely beautiful in every single note and in every way. Folksy, fresh, and contemporary.
In life, we invariably find ourselves led in various directions. “Lead Me Home” is definitely a direction you’ll want to go in. ~Dyan Garris for New Age
Rating: Excellent
Between Then and Now by Nick Farr
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/25/2017
A breath of musical fresh air
I needed this album, I needed some time to reflect in a chilled environment and this release fitted the bill perfectly. Nick Farr had been on my musical radar for some years now, since the solo piano album A View from Within, back in 2012, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear a multi instrumental album from him, just when my spirits needed lifting.
Between then and Now starts in a most friendly style, with the memorable and light jazz styled ethic of the opening piece entitled Thinking of You. This is one extremely smooth composition and brings us a light happy feeling immediately as we start our musical journey with the artist.
On Late Night Rendezvous we have a truly sensual offering, the brass in this arrangement lays down a romantic, yet heart rendering moment of musical magic. The piano of Farr is the master narrator, which guides us through the waters of love and a late night rendezvous.
I shall have to pass this track onto our Celtic music presenter, I am sure she would love to feature Celtic Shores on her show. The compositions and arrangement of this piece is sublime and gives us a true flavour of the heartlands of the Celts. The strings are a paintbrush of sound that colours the vista with a simple brushstroke of tone. Farr drives forever onward on piano and dances with the violin when needed.
As we arrive at Within Reach, we come across a lush composition that is performed with a certain layer of sensitivity, but an extremely adept overture of professionalism. This is a truly magnificent opus, one that shows the masterful performance of Farr at its very best.
Let’s turn back the clock now and go back to Memphis, 1989. We roll backwards and into the arms of a really smooth and jazzy offering. The gentle nature of this piece gives us an evident sensation of movement, perhaps driving through the city lights, in a nightfall moment, on a warm summer evening in late August.
The percussion and piano introduce us to a piece called Happy Hour, the bass joins the band and we can enjoy a track that perhaps illustrates that we have found the entrance to Cheers bar, and we’re lucky enough to have arrived at Happy Hour. There is simply everything to like about this wonderful feel good piece.
We have passed now into the latter half of the album and come across a personal favourite of mine called A New Beginning. Farr’s skill at musical illustration can never be more evident than here. There is a certain expectation in the performance of a fresh start; the keyboards create an energy that seems to grow with every note played, and the multi instrumentation segments draw us a picture of an increased energy of excitement.
Blackberry Lane sees Farr’s skill set on piano really come to the fore, a picturesque offering is now upon us and with a certain symphonic grace we are gifted something that is truly great in all aspects of the word. The melody also has a slight Celtic lilt to it that demands to be listened to. Blackberry Lane also has that wonderful use of crescendo and a glorious cinematic quality, which would slot nicely into a movie segment with ease, and yes, this is my absolute favourite from the release.
The flute and piano of Farr dance in a symbiotic movement of nature on this most attractive and charming piece called Whip-Poor-Will. There’s a beauty and warmth about this track that create an addictive narrative, perhaps being an ornithologist helps, but this charming composition drew such a wonderful musical vista in my mind’s eye.
I must admit I have walked some of the Trail of Tears, I found it a very sobering and a deeply moving moment in my life, this heinous act should never be forgotten and the pain and suffering that went along with it should never be either. This track emphasises that, but also the proud nature of the true indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Farr has also most produced a symphony for the ages here in this classic cinematic offering, but you can also hear echoes of the past, created respectfully by a ghostly flute on the horizon.
As we reach the penultimate track we come across an intriguing offering called Snow Soldiers. The percussion draws an obvious narrative, but this is one of those pieces you must listen to all the way through, as the composition hangs in the air, like the sullen clouds of a storm waiting to break, and you never know exactly what is going to happen next. The ability of Nick Farr to produce several movie styled pieces on this album is beyond impressive, Snow Soldiers falls in that category to and should be saluted as a modern day stroke of symphonic genius.
So we arrive at our last musical doorway, and as we push it open we find tucked away in the corner our last offering from the release, it’s called Aurora Green. For me, this was a very clever way to end the album, almost where we started off, and Farr’s jazz piano style floats back into our minds, rounding off what has been a truly superb musical voyage with the artist.
Between Then and Now is an album that adds a colour and depth to the current music scene, one that at times seems to lurch into a banality of receptiveness. This is a musical journey you will never want to end. Farr has created a true album in the sense of the word, one that depicts so many moments in time and illustrates each and every composition with a performance that is simply outstanding. Between Then and Now is one of those releases that everyone should have sitting proudly at the front of their musical collection, it’s a true breath of musical fresh air.
Rating: Excellent
Ardor by Matthew Mayer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2017
Genius in motion
There is a certain whole heartedness about this brand new release from Matthew Mayer that is so appealing. The fluency is not only enticing, it is all encapsulating, and draws you in with a simply touch of the keys.
Ardor is an album that flows with passion, like the first offering entitled Stars on 123, a curious title indeed, but a composition that has a vastness about its arrangement that is akin to the galaxy itself, an ambient start that will lighten the load after a hard day in the real world.
The title track is next up and Ardor flows from the piano like a mountain stream in winter. The gentleness of performance here is what takes my attention, I would absolutely love to watch the artist perform this, his style is so mesmeric. The reflective nature of this piece is mood filled, but has certain avidity about its energy.
Source Of Blue has a depth and deepness about its essence that is so picturesque, yes it is reflective, but in a thoughtful way. This album would be perfect for those quiet moments I spend by the ocean, in a wistful and studious mood. The melody here seems familiar; perhaps it’s the resonance that it creates for me today!
We move slowly now into a track called Shoe Strings, the slight use of pause here adds to the structure of the arrangement, then with a wave of the hand the tempo picks up and the track moves from reflection, into action. This upbeat composition rejuvenates us and readies us for the next port of call.
That sojourn now approaches, so it’s time to spend a moment off the clock in the realm of a piece called Disappear It May. This is a tune of a different colour, as the artist draws a mysterious narrative that is so very addictive. This is one of those tracks that you will find yourself whistling late at night or during the day for no apparent reason.
Doc greets our arrival at the half way marker. This melodic short form arrangement has all the hall marks of a movie segment. The piece is so carefully performed it’s a pleasure to listen to, and the light it brings with it, equally so.
Our footfalls are now on the return pathway towards the end of the album and our anthem to take us there is called A Kindled Soul. Here is a song that has a real spark; this is an inspired performance by the artist. One that is played with a real essence of rapidity, but with style and panache, this musical narration literally pours from his hands, and brings forth a truly empowering and stimulating arrangement.
One of my many favourites from this release is Moonlight Walk. I should do more of these and perhaps this very track could be the soundtrack for my night time perambulations. A slow and delightfully eloquent composition can be found here, one that seems to ebb to and fro like the tide.
The memorable When Flowers Grew Wild is now upon us. Here is a piece that is bathed in a reminiscence that is so deeply felt, and perhaps a commemoration of when life seemed to be far easier and kinder than it appears today.
We now move forever onwards and come across a piece called Escape. The intensity here is truly evident and the pace created draws us a splendid narrative of running fast towards freedom and away from fear. Matthew Mayer has manifested something here that is cleverly dramatic and radiates with it an exciting gusto of musical energy.
We now arrive at the portal of the penultimate offering which is called Dreams V1. This once more has a sense of reflection about its construction and from the performance one could easily imagine waking from a dream into sunlight Sunday morning.
We have arrived at the departure lounge of the project called Ardor by Matthew Mayer, but before we make our way back to our reality, the artist has one more piece to share with you, a musical gift if you like, to take with you along your way, it is the ever so fluent and inspirational, We Met Once. Gentle and considerate are two words I would use to label this final composition, a truly clever way to end what has been a magnificent musical journey.
Ardor has a real passion about it that is absolutely undeniable, but from that passion emanates complete truth, from that truth comes one of the finest performances of solo piano you’re likely to hear for an age.
Matthew Mayer is a true master of his art and this, his eleventh album, will not only placate the legions of his eager fans, but grow that base experientially. The talents of the Mayer go to create something here that is not only sincerely special, but could rightfully be called genius in motion.
Rating: Excellent
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