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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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A Hero's Journey
By Karen Olson and Crispin Barrymore
Label: Self-Released
A Hero's Journey tracks
1. Horizon's Calling
2. Life's Persuasions
3. Promising Hope
4. Still Crying
5. Dream Quest
6. Facing Fear
7. Going Beyond
8. Life Force
9. Inner Wanderings
10. Heaven's Gates
11. Epilogue
It Begins With One Step
I’ve been an explorer all my life. When I was a child I would play the part of boy-geologist looking for unusual rocks one day and the pioneer walking through the woods in search of secrets the next. But I was never a hero. A Hero’s Journey, the new release by violist Karen Olson and pianist Crispin Barrymore is more than just a chronicle of a sojourner across unknown lands. The music represents the hero in all of us, whether we realize it or not. To me the concept of hero no longer includes someone who has run a hundred yard for a touchdown. Rather it is the single mom that has three kids and makes it work on a fast food part time salary. Or the little boy who sold lemonade to pay for his own adoption. The hero is the young girl that stands up and fights for her right to get an education in the face of an armed rebellious sect.

Karen and Crispin’s music represents the struggle, the hopelessness and the fear of every daily endeavor, but it also represents a triumph over time. The album contains eleven contemporary tracks featuring viola, piano and keyboard sampling with enough orchestration to make each tracks sound like it is part of a suite. The music had good flow and it stayed true to its theme throughout the recording.

Horizon’s Calling, the opening number was very serious. It left no doubt that this journey would be an arduous one, full of tribulations and periods of uncertainty and despair. The voice of Karen’s viola is not exactly somber, but more subdued as if all the sunlight is just over the next mountain, beckoning us, challenging us to seek it out.

Still Crying is a melancholy tune, the viola’s voice weeps as the story unfolds. You wonder how you can face so many challenges. You ponder how anything positive will ever be in evidence. But you still persevere.

The music of Dream Quest is sinuous, fluid and flowing as we finally meet the horizon or is it a dream? Karen’s instrument has a strong voice as the hero tries to distinguish fact from fallacy. Luckily he now feels strongly that he/she can achieve their goals. This is one of my favorites on the collection.

In Life Force Karen’s viola is played in the lower registers making sound almost like a cello, while Crispin boldly uses quavering highlights in the background. Good, strong percussion gives this song drive as the hero moves ever forward.

Heaven’s Gate has an atmospheric sound, a little milder and slower than most of the other songs. It is a rest, a respite from the task just accomplished. It is the light in the distance, the prize just beyond our grasp.

Epilogue is the longest cut on A Hero’s Journey at more than eleven minutes, but oh that time is very well spent. The amazing journey is over, but what of the outcome? The music takes on a dirge like quality at times and at other times is glorious. Perhaps we are invited to draw our own conclusion as we make our own journey.

Move over violin, off the stage cello; the viola has spoken in her unique voice and she is triumphant. Karen Olson has proven that the viola is match for any instrument, but we must not forget the strong orchestration of Crispin Barrymore, nor the great compositions that brings this album to life. All and all, I enjoyed the entire album with its epic journey and poignant orchestration.
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 2/21/2017
 
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