Search
The Industry Source for New Age, World, Ambient, Electronic, Solo Piano, Relaxation, Instrumental and many other genres of Music
review board:  View all reviews Submit your own reviews
member reviews
Americana by Doug Hammer
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/18/2016
Created with skill, style and respect
Doug Hammer has gained a wonderful reputation of being one of the finest pianists around today, in a genre jam packed with talent. As we approach the end of the year, Hammer reflects on his country and all that he believes it embodies, in a grand, sometimes powerful and always emotive style.
He starts in a full and flourishing mode and in the style of soundtrack superstar Michael Hoppe, a vast sweeping soundscape is created with a wonderful orchestration entwined within the composition on The Spirit of America.
Americana the track, gives us a mixture of folk, mixed with a little Celtic thrown in for good measure and then follows that up with a classic that just about anyone in the world would know, his interpretation of Yankee Doodle, still to this day I can’t stop thinking about James Cagney when I hear this.
The national anthem of a country is always emotional to witness being performed live; I’ve seen many in my travels and here once more Hammer adds his own personal style to this heartfelt composition on The Star Spangled Banner.
The artist then gifts us a rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and even though I am not an American, I have always found this arrangement emotionally stirring; Hammer’s version is sublime, deep and quite rousing.
There are 18 pieces in total on the album, like a version of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, which has a superb build and progression contained within. Samuel A. Ward’s America the Beautiful, which I may add is beautifully played by Hammer and very emotionally as well, but no one can ever really doubt that extra little sensitivity that a Doug Hammer release will have.
On The Good Old Days we touch the hem of a real folk-styled ballad that is not only well performed and sung, but also contains lyrics that are more relevant today than perhaps ever before.
My Country “Tis of Thee” curiously starts with the melody of the British National Anthem “God Save the Queen”. While Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to My Country “Tis of Thee” back in 1831, the melody was created by Italian born British composer Muzio Clementi, and can be found in his third symphony. Just to confuse you further, you can also find it on the song America by Neil Diamond. Perhaps if the singer is going to perform this live again, he should invite Doug Hammer to feature on piano for him, as this is a very stylish rendition.
On Heartland, Hammer delivers a deep and moving composition that is majestically played, and with the added instrumentation, especially strings, it gives us a sublime moment of musical reflection to enjoy. The arrangement and performance here is amazing, and as such makes this my favourite piece off the release.
We move now to one of the most stylish arrangements off the album, with a superb female vocal and a wonderful string section, Hammer gives us Shenandoah, a real Celtic classic that can perhaps be dated back to the early 19th century.
As we move deeper into the album we come across Simple Gifts, this is the longest track off the release at just over six minutes long, which takes us smoothly into Taps. Former military man Daniel Butterfield was responsible for this bugle call styled composition, which still to this day is still used at burials.
The originality of Elegy, composed by Hammer is superb, a mournful approach is heightened by the strings, but here is a track that has a beautiful ambience about its nature, which thankfully gifts us five minutes of utter magic.
Hammer follows that up with another original song called Redemption, and its slow tempo creates an emotive backdrop to a modern-styled arrangement with orchestra, the strings and percussion are incredible here. Redemption is one of those tracks that could be featured in a movie and carries that David Arkenstone soundtrack motif within its construction.
Now here is a song I have heard all my life from one singer to another, from one album to another, I’m sure you have too, it’s called The Water is Wide. However this may well be the oldest piece on the release, as it dates back to around the 1600’s and its pleasing to say, that thanks to Hammer’s skills and the added female vocalist, this is one of the finest versions I have heard for some time.
Doug Hammer manifests another classic here called The Dream Is Alive, this orchestral piece is our penultimate offering on this brand new release called Americana and is superbly composed and performed by Hammer and the Orchestra, creating yet another moment of emotional musical power.
So let’s end with a little dance, wipe the dust off the old 78 and make sure the stylus is clean, then let’s go on a Sunnyside Rag. This is a clever choice by Doug Hammer; he leaves us with a fun and light song to see out the album.
On Americana, Doug Hammer has honoured his ancestors and brought back idyllic memories from the past. He has honoured servicemen who may be thousands of miles from home, but here on this release, that home can be brought a little bit closer. Americana is an eclectic mix of patriotic folk songs, that will lift the spirits and bring back many memories, but Hammer has also given us eight new tracks of his own creation for us to enjoy as well. This is a marathon of an album, created with a great deal of skill, style and a deep found respect.

Rating: Excellent
In the Company of Clouds by Erik Scott
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 12/18/2016
Contemporary instrumental music at its best
Erik has been on hard journey through a tough battle with his health, but this journey has allowed him to discover more about his inner workings and the kindness of others, creative instincts in great adversity may be dimmed for a while, but in arduous circumstance, creativity is one major tool in the recovery of a person.
On this release Erik has really touched bass (no pun intended) with his musical soul and has kicked on a whole 10 yards after the release of his last offering Spirits. That on its own was an impressive album, but this is another notch up the ladder of sublime brilliance.
Listen to the opener called Nine Lives and I am sure you will agree, there is a freshness, and a vibrancy that really captures us early on. Scott’s ability on bass has never been in question, but this is such a powerful and empowering start to the release. The inclusion of added vocalisations from Larry Batiste, Sandy Griffith and Bryan Dyer was also a stroke of ambient genius.
I must say track two was one of my favourites; it’s called Seven Veils and has a sensuous percussive beat to drive it along with Scott’s wonderfully deep bass. This is a piece that has a cinematic quality to its structure and also contains a little world music ethic in there as well.
There is something within Erik’s work that reminds me of the Uk’s Phil Thornton, both play fretless bass, both come from rock backgrounds and at a similar age also, and both are now new age musicians of the highest standing.
On Women of Avalon he includes the talents of Steve Hunter on guitar and gifts us a piece that reminds me of the country of my birth, as Avalon, or Glastonbury, was one of the last places I visited, before leaving the country. The backing vocals from the new team of Renee Robinson, Shawn Christopher and Yvonne Cage were imperious, but a special note must go to master percussionist, John Madder for his work on this track, this is one very magical composition arranged brilliantly by the artist.
Thrilled at this journey, we can continue dear reader and listener, deeper into the release, and as we do so we come across an offering called Breathing Room, this piece contains some marvellous guitar from a name we know well here at OWMR, Jeff Pearce, however please take note of Scott’s basson this track, its textures and layers are simply delightful. Scott reminds me of Clapton, but on bass, he just has to touch the guitar to make it sing, this is one VERY smooth song.
Victory starts with a light emphasis on tone and soon builds with a gentle crescendo into a very memorable composition with an addictive melody, attach that with the driving percussive tempo and you pretty much have the perfect instrumental composition, a tip of the hat to Kevin Haynes on drums. As a lyricist, I would venture to be so bold, that if words could be constructed to this piece, it could be a single or even an anthem.
As we move into the latter half of the album we come across a melodic offering called Open Door, which features a stylish performance by Chris Cameron on piano. This is certainly a dramatic piece and one that is narrated well by Scott’s driving bass lines. The combination of keyboards and added instrumentation does give this track a lush aged feel to the song, which is so very appealing and moves us seamlessly into the next piece called First Cup.
The quality of production is awesome and First Cup, a short form composition at just under three minutes has a beautiful symbiotic combination of both guitar and bass that creates something very colourful to enjoy.
Waves, is a moment of ambient bliss, I have listened to this a few times and it conjures up pictures in my mind’s eye. Fortunately at the bottom of my road the winter ocean and its waves crash up onto the shore and a multi coloured rainbow shines its every loving light down on us all. This is one superb piece of music, it has a little rock ethic deep within the weave, the guitar of Phil Miller echoes in the distance, here is a track that will take you back to the early 70’s and back again, simply brilliant.
Our last piece to enjoy dear reader is called The Long View, and also features Rick Barnes on acoustic guitar. Scott is back on familiar territory here and takes us to the end of this latest project with a fine example of smooth and easy musicianship, with the stylish hand of a magician who really knows his musical soul.
In the Company of Clouds is a really class album that oozes clarity and quality. Erik Scott has not only stepped up to the plate, he has crisply created something quite magnificent, and knocked the preverbal musical ball out of the park, a fresh empowered energy, a lightness of spirit, Scott is back with a bang, this is seriously one album you would be completely crazy to miss out on, contemporary instrumental music at its very best.
Rating: Excellent
The Native American Flute As Therapy by Micki Free
- posted by Candice Michelle on 12/13/2016
Micki Free - The Native American Flute As Therapy
Micki Free is a Sedona-based guitarist and flutist, as well as Grammy and multiple NAMA award-winning artist. With an extensive musical career as both a solo artist and band member, The Native American Flute As Therapy is a double album of twelve tracks total (plus a third disc featuring a music video of “Lavender Kiss”) that subtly draws from his Rock n’ Roll roots, while incorporating traditional Native American, new age and contemporary acoustic styles of music into the fold. Micki’s own voice narrates the introduction to each track, all which variably feature flutes, guitars, keyboards and percussion, along with nature sounds and wind chimes sprinkled throughout.

“White Candle Light” opens with spoken word akin to that of a guided meditation amidst gentle tones and chimes. In a calming, comforting voice, Micki speaks of visualizing a white light to attract positive energy. The piece then leads into the soothing sounds of rain sticks and soft tribal drums, followed by Micki’s signature Native flute along with earthy vocal drones. A beautiful opener lasting for nearly eleven minutes, the rest of the album adheres to the earthy, grounding feel of this piece, as Micki introduces each song with relaxing spoken word. The second track, “Healing Bath”, begins with running water and delicate chimes, which underscore Micki’s spoken introduction on the healing properties of water. An acoustic guitar and flute melody soon emerge, guided along by gentle drumming, as soulful vocal washes additionally lend a slightly bluesy Americana feel to the piece. Originally titled “Lavender Herb”, the tenderly soulful third track, “Lavender Kiss”, was renamed as such in honor of Micki’s late friend, Prince. This album was already in production when Micki received news of the iconic musician’s passing, thereby adding another layer of emotion to this recording.

“Essential Oils” opens the second disc with subtle rain, thunder and chimes, as Micki’s narration introduces a gentle melody of piano, keyboard and flute. The second track, “Jasmine Rain”, is perhaps one of the most beautifully tranquil moments on the album, characterized by a lone flute melody enhanced by rain sticks, thunderstorm and nocturnal nature sounds. The third track, “Sacred Sage”, brings to mind a starlit canyon, as the sounds of crickets chirping and echoing flutes are gently guided along by hypnotic native drumming. Another one of my favorite pieces is the fourth track, “Heart Release (Peregrine Lane)”, with its misty tones, gorgeous flute melody and deep, pulse-like drumming that mimics a slow heartbeat. Another version of this song, titled “Heart Release (Yoga Meditation Mix)”, aptly concludes the album with conscious inhaling and exhaling in tandem with the pulse-like drumming and a continuous light brush of chimes.

Boasting an earth-centric tranquility, The Native American Flute As Therapy is an exquisitely warm and soulfully comforting experience, which often evokes images of streams, canyons and the great plains throughout. An especially suitable album for yoga, healing and spa therapies, Micki Free is simply a master of medicinal music-making! ~Candice Michelle (Journeyscapesradio.com)
Rating: Excellent
<<-later reviews | earlier reviews->>   <<- all reviews ->>
 
Site Map     *     Privacy Policy     *     Terms of Use     *     Contact Us
Core Solutions, LLC