||Anne Trenning's third release, Watching For Rain, strikes me as a sweetly nostalgic and dreamily innocent recording, one which evokes small town America, where kids still play in front yards or pedal their bikes through the streets of town, adults sit on front porches during hot summer nights, shopkeepers say "Hello" to passer-bys while sweeping the sidewalk in front of their stores (calling them by name, of course), and the only sounds one hears are kids' laughter, birds singing, a neighbor's lawn mower, and your friend's dog barking at squirrels. Why I conjure up such an idyllic image from these warm rich melodies, played on piano and ensemble, is a mystery, but I do and, in fact, I did form the first playing.
Pianist Trenning is joined by an able crew of accompanists (Jane Hart Brendle on violin, Mira Frisch on cello, Jennifer Dior on flute and piccolo, Van Sax on bass and guitar, David Floyd on keyboards, e.g. the orchestral instrumentation, and Rick Dior on percussion). It's worth mentioning how well all these players fit together. noteworthy is Floyd's contribution on (keyboard-based) strings and woodwinds are especially noteworthy, being applied with a deft hand, never drifting into melodrama - first rate, that!
While there is abundant variety here, most of it is subtle in nature. For the most part, the fourteen pieces on the CD (there is a fifteenth track but it's ultra-short closing Benediction) are all strong on melody, mostly of a sweeping romantic aspect, generally laid back but not sparse or somber, instead being charming in nature with one or two nods toward introspection. With the exception of the rousing Irish-flavored Eden Hall, rhythms are not forceful but serve to complement an individual piece's innate tempo. While Trenning sometimes shares the spotlight with her co-players, it's easy to hear that this is, indeed, a piano album, as the instrument takes center stage most of the time and, in fact, there a also few solo piano tracks on the album.
The Ash Grove kicks off the CD with a gentle waltz-like cadence as Trenning trades leads with Brendle's violin and the romantic flavor that dominates this album should be readily apparent just a few minutes into this song. A Prayer for the World conveys a gentler and more introspective mood (great string orchestrations on this track) while The Welcome Song returns to the rural Americana motifs of The Ash Grove. Days of Pie, the first solo piano tune, offers a celebratory, but not over the top, giddiness and light-heartedness, while Carolina Moon is the most overtly "turn of the century" (and I, of course, mean from 1899-1900!) track on the recording. There is a sweet gentility flowing through the piece so that one almost feels transported back in time. Shifting gears, And I'll Fly Away comes back to the present as Trenning's piano is accented by new age style bell tones and atmospheric synth washes, as well as what I take to be the sound of waves breaking on shore and subtly applied guitar deep in the mix. This is probably my favorite cut on the CD.
The only piece here I'm less than satisfied with is the "bonus track," Dancing With You which is an overcooked slow tempo blues number which is weighed down by the drum kit being boosted way too loud in the mix, to the detriment of the other instruments (the cool organ riffs are buried - a shame).
Other than that nit, Watching For Rain is a pleasurable easy-to-like album and it presented a great change of pace from the preponderance of solo piano releases I get sent for review. Trenning's piano playing is well-suited to this style of music and her accompanists do a bang-up job. When you need a pick me up on a gloomy day or when you're down in the dumps, but don't want music which is too energetic, or if you're just a die-hard romantic like I am, this CD would be a good one to slide into the player.