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Lead Me Home by Camille Nelson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/11/2018
As refreshing as a brand new day
Music is the panacea to cure all ills and put the mind at ease, as such Camille Nelson must be pretty proud of her achievement on her latest release entitled Lead Me Home.
Starting with a well-known classic like Amazing Grace is really something to live up to, but here on her version she has created something not only different, but dramatic and inspiring. The symphonic nature and the guitar seem to meld together in a symbiosis of musical cleverness, which makes this a most original arrangement indeed.
The originality of this next piece How Great Thou Art is also remarkable, once more the emotion is there, but a gentle performance style can be felt and heard and through the mix, the reflective and respectful energy of the piece can truly be felt too.
On Nearer My God To Thee, there is a slight tempo shift and arising of the rhythms, one that inspires the narration of the composition to flow like a summer brook. The folk styled performance here adds a whole new dimension to the arrangement as well.
As we move to the piece Be Thou My Vision, we hear a violin at the very beginning that is performed quite admirably by Nelson, this piece also features Alex Sharpe from Celtic Woman. For me this one was always going to be a winner, it seems to have followed me around all of my life, but until now I don’t think I have heard anything quite so beautiful.
Adelia is up next, the meaning of that name is noble and one can feel that through the tones of the song, that was written by Susie Brown. This solo guitar composition has a really light and proud feel to its construction, a moment of musical performance when the sun comes bursting in through your curtains is here in music for you.
Nelson’s uniqueness on guitar is fascinating and on Be Still My Soul we have a piece that seems to float and hover around us. The strings seem to reverberate with the energy of quietness and calm. This is one of the prettiest arrangements on the release without doubt.
On Israel, Israel, God is Calling, you will hear the talents of Dylan Schroer on Pedal Steel Guitar, when you hear the familiar melody you will probably remember it under the name, What A Friend We Have In Jesus. The performance here is light and sparkling and I also detected some rather nice harmonics in their as well, the percussive additions also added a real depth to the piece.
One of my favourites was Come, Come, Ye Saints, which also featured the skills of Steven Sharp Nelson the brother of the artist in the composition. This Mormon Hymn is steeped in a folk style, with an empowering percussive beat and is performed with such style and presentation, but it also has a certain level of power and posture, that makes it for me, the stand out track on the album.
The title track is now upon us, Lead Me Home, this empty canvas is the opportunity for the artist to illustrate their intention. Camille Nelson does this with flair and style and panache and adds a level of subtle intensity to the composition that really adds a wonderful level of charm to the overall arrangement.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing featuring Ryan Shupe on Fiddle and Mandolin is next, the exquisite nature of both stringed instruments adds a new realm of depth to the song. This is a veritable wonderland of stringed instrumentation and a truly fascinating piece to listen quietly too.
The penultimate offering is fascinatingly and called Patterns of Light, this has such a wonderfully warm guitar leading the way, I would also rate this as a personal favourite of mine. As a guitarist myself, this is inspiring to hear, the gentle and careful build is delightful.
So we arrive at the very last port of call and it’s called Count Your Many Blessings, something I have been doing a lot of lately. This features Camille Nelson on piano, the first time it has been used on the album and this creates an opportunity for the multi-instrumentalist to leave us in style, which she does with grace and polish. The artist does herself proud her with the perfect finale to what has been an illuminating release.
Camille Nelson with Lead Me Home has proved me right, that although this is an album, as some may say, of the joys of religious communion, Nelsons music crosses borders that some would fear to tread, and as usual music is the key. There is something in this release for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs or not, if you step into this realm of music, you will be happy to have done so, some of the techniques, performances styles and instrumentation used, are innovative and as refreshing as a brand new day.
Rating: Excellent
Piano Sanctuary by Masako
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 2/9/2018
Solo piano brilliance
I had the delight of coming into the world of Masako in 2012, a year of many changes; her music then calmed the soul and brought a new focus to my life. The changes have constantly rang out for me over the past 6 years and in 2018 Masako’s latest release now plays its gentle refrains into my heart and soul, so why not join me on this new musical sojourn, through the works of Piano Sanctuary.
The style and narration and a musical prowess is clear to see, and we are off on an emotive ride with the first offering entitled When You Were Little, a composition that is filled with the light of sweet memory, passion and happiness, the perfect way to open any album.
The piano of Masako is always something worth waiting for and on Ragrima we have a gentle but reflective melody that will be loved for an age. There is something almost timeless about this piece that attracts me, the notes fall from her fingers like, crisp brown leaves from an autumn tree, and with each stroke manifests such a rich tapestry of tone to enjoy.
One of the most picturesque and sensitive arrangements is the very beautiful The Bird And The River. Her performance structure can change with an ease that is hardly noticed, but non the less very evident, and here on this piece one could almost watch a small bird, dip, swoop, and sip from this ever abundant river. Masako has a rare talent to be able to draw wonderful art within each composition she creates, and this one is a fine example of that.
On Midnight Sun, we have a little Jazzy motif that fits so beautifully; this laid back song seems to sparkle in this night sky of radiant music with such a smooth refrain. The confidence in performance here draws an even more elaborate picture for us to enjoy, and once more the magical skills of the artist brings us total peace and harmony.
I stayed over in New York, but didn’t have the time to visit Central Park, but I could see it from above as my plane took off for the Midwest. This is a sublime representation of the area in music and Central Park Retreat is indeed a sanctuary to many, perhaps even a piano sanctuary.
At the mid-way point we come across a charming piece called A Tale of Lonely Otter (Solo Version). There is indeed a sense of remorse and sadness built in here, but as always a tale to tell with the keys and this track seems to wend its way through a nature narrative of happy free times, mixed with moments of reflection and memory.
Time to take a trip across the lakes and seas on Sailing, there is a real energy about this offering that I love; it also has a little Beatles ethic sown in for good measure at the start. The power in this track is very redolent of the subject matter; we could feel at ease as if we are sailing on choppy but sun kissed waters within its construction.
As we move from the waters of Sailing, we come across The Land We Called Hope. Masako seems to be able to change course at will and here on this piece we have a sense of a fresh start and possibilities built into its musical narrative. The style is both confident as well as empowering and brings a new energy to the album that flows so wonderfully.
Something different is on offer on this next piece called The Lost Estate. This composition is intriguing and seems to manifest an essence of grandeur, but one that floats on the energies of past memories. I adored the performance here, at times almost classical, with a hint of Jazz thrown in for good measure, listen also to the elevation of intensity within this piece, this has to be the cleverest track on the album, with ease.
Within the next offering called Koto, we have a piece that could be classed as almost cinematic in parts, it’s has that essence and energy of drama, but seems to also create a narrative of musical quality that is truly addictive.
Frozen Quarry is yet another vista of great musical quality painted by the piano of Masako. The slow tempo, but assured melody draws us a wonderful picture of a frozen wasteland, through each touch of the piano Masako uses a little power, partnered with a gentle touch to illustrate this masterpiece of winter.
Sadly we have now reached the very last gift of musical genius from the artist Masako on her album Piano Sanctuary; this final composition is called Tender Stories. The exit from this her latest project has an energy of empowerment built around a calming and tender refrain, this musical confidence will allow us to leave the album fully aware that we have listened to a truly superb album, and will be very eager to revisit it yet again.
Piano Sanctuary by Masako is another step up for the artist, her skill sets grow and expand constantly, and on this release, she hasn’t only shown what a consummate performer she is, she has revealed to the world, that she is a composer of sublime and cultured music, music that can speak to each and every listener she connects with. This is a truly marvellous release and thoroughly recommended for anyone who wants to hear solo piano, played brilliantly.
Rating: Excellent
Soundscapes by Deborah Offenhauser
- posted by Dyan Garris on 2/3/2018
Deborah Offenhauser - Soundscapes
Deborah Offenhauser’s album, “Soundscapes,” is a masterful blend of a variety of sounds and superb ensemble instrumentation, combining elements of smooth jazz, neo-classical piano, World music, and New Age.

This contemporary instrumental album is an enticing cornucopia of thirteen compelling, original compositions from Offenhauser, a multi-instrumentalist, who has an impressive musical career spanning thirty years. “Soundscapes,” which is an exciting and deliciously different album, seems a natural segue for both us as listeners and for this artist. The album is over one full hour of intriguing compositions sure to hold your attention and captivate both your imagination and your heart.

Deborah’s career milestones include piano performances for Broadway tours of West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, A Chorus Line, Oliver, Sound of Music, Peter Pan, Nutcracker, Miss Saigon, The King and I, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Producers, Mama Mia, Hairspray, and The Full Monty,

The album has the kind of vibe and verve that is well suited to music licensing, TV, and film soundtracks. So it is not entirely surprising that Deborah’s music has been heard on many hit TV shows as well as The Weather Channel.

That she can play the piano and play it very well, is obvious. This album, however, is an intriguing piece of artistry that’s a little out of the box, and showcases her growth, range, and immense talent as an artist and composer.

“Soundscapes” was recorded with renowned, Los Angeles based sound engineer, artist, and producer, James Linahon, whose work has included several well-known and major award-winning projects.

The album begins with “Decidedly Joyful,” which is as might be expected, decidedly joyful. Smoothly flowing, with incorporated jazz elements, percussion, and other instrumentation, mixed expertly with piano, it’s one of my favorites on this album.

Following on track 2 is the tantalizing “Free Radical.” It’s a lush landscape, infused with nature sounds, piquant piano melodies, strings, and various other interesting electronica and instrumentation along the way. There is nothing boring about this composition which is constantly changing, holding our interest all the way through. In fact, the whole album is that way.

“Nothing Can Touch You Now” is one of my favorite songs on this album. Again, there is nothing remotely mundane here, and this is truly brilliant in every way. The track begins with soothing nature sounds, which evoke initial feelings of a rainforest. Strings, and other pleasant aural elements are introduced, before the whole thing opens magnificently onto a lush, and richly textured expanse of completely gorgeous piano and more. Gently flowing and moving, one could listen to this song over and over again and never tire of it in this lifetime.

Aptly named is “Irrational Exuberance” on track 4 with its playful, percolating, plucky strings, flute, and piano. The subsequent “Tanz” is mysterious and worldly, with an awesome atmosphere of the exotic East. In continuance of the World music style, is “Spatial Palace,” which initially transports us to what could be a busy outdoor marketplace. The piece is Asian in flavor, tantalizing and enticing us with what comes next.

Starting off softly and gently and then becoming quite big and grand is “Through a Glass Darkly” on track 7. This is a richly layered, fascinating composition full of passion and emotion.

Dreamy, twinkling piano along with otherworldly, atmospheric percussion, introduce the piece “Rosemont Theme,” which one might possibly construe as being kind of eerie. However, just when you may be thinking or feeling that, the composition evolves into a stunningly beautiful piano melody. Warm strings and more soon accompany. This is a diverse, breathlessly outstanding piece, and one to get completely immersed in.

“Air” is a delightful and melodic tune. This begins with guitar, airy and light, and capturing the emotions of what it might feel like to be light as air. As the song progresses and takes shape, we are led to imagine air perhaps evolving into a body of sorts. Ultimately, then, air returns to its natural state of being, fanciful and free. Another truly interesting composition.

Next up is “The Gloaming” with its somber, but still sparkly evocations of mystery and suspense. How you perceive this piece depends upon how you view twilight in general. It would make an excellent soundtrack to a movie thriller or horror film as would the song “Tanninim” (meaning “sea monsters” or “creatures of the sea), on track 12.

As far as I know, any kind of darkness is always followed by the dawn, and “It Is Written” is very well-placed here after “The Gloaming,” as track 11. “It Is Written” is one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs on “Soundscapes,” and my absolute favorite in all aspects. Supremely relaxing, its movement is graceful and flowing. As rich and as multi-textured as the rest of the compositions on the album, and possibly written with film in mind, this one speaks directly to the heart in a poignant, tender, and powerful way. Just gorgeous through and through.

“The Wonderful Unfoldment of Blue” winds up Deborah Offenhauser’s thoroughly enjoyable “Soundscapes.” Somewhat somber, yet also peaceful at the same time, it’s a good way to exit this notable and refreshing album.

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