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An Open Sky by Ryan Judd
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/22/2018
A wonderful melding of tone between guitar & cello
The art of acoustic is now upon us and a finer and classier collection of soothing compositions you are unlikely to find. Judd has created something reflective, poignant and emotive here on the guitar for us all to dream within for a short while.
We start this sojourn of tone off with the opener Looking Back. I adored this, not just because it gave me personally a few minutes to reflect on my journey so far, but also because Judd plays exactly how I am practising as a guitarist myself. This gentle finger style, the harmonics and the reflective mood created by the use of minor chords made this a winner of an opener for me. The mix of Cello and Guitar works divinely and manifests a truly thoughtful musical interlude, one that perhaps we can drift back in our memories, sad and happy too.
As we move gently down this forest pathway of unbridled blissful string based music, we come across a charming piece called The Embrace, there is a wonderful warmth that flows from the instrumentation here, and one could easily see a meeting between two old friends, the smile on the face and of course the warm embrace. This also happens to be the longest track off the album at well over five minutes, and that gives us plenty of time to enjoy this warming connection.
We now arrive at the home of the title track An Open Sky, the style of performance on this album reminds me of one of my favourite guitarists in Robert Linton. There is a familiarity of harmony and reflection that manifests something deeply moving, yet kind and compassionate, much like the musical contents of this, the title track. The Cello here really embraces the moment and while there is a slight elevation in tempo, this only goes to musically create a vast soundscape for me to enjoy further.
The gentleness of performance can truthfully be felt right here on this offering called Heartstrings. The symbiotic partnership of instrumentation can also be felt here in a sublime heart on the sleeve performance from the artist. There is a soft energy about the structure of this composition that I adored, and this mournful yet honest offering is very touching indeed.
At the half way marker we come across a really ambient offering entitled Weightless. Judd’s careful progression through this offering was sublime and created a delicate melody for us to enjoy as well. There was also a really delightful lightness of energy and spirit with in the composition that I utterly revelled in; at times it seemed that the Cello was assisting the guitar to raise its vibrations even higher, what a clever arrangement indeed.
I sit here in the latter part of October awaiting a huge storm to pull us even further into the arms of the season of falling leaves and mists, and we now arrive at the perfect soundtrack entitled Autumn Light. Interestingly enough this is the shortest track off the album at just over three minutes, but Judd manifests something very redolent of the subject matter, and the cello here weaves a tone of darker longer nights by the log fire perhaps, this is a wonderfully artistic offering.
When you arrive at this next offering you should sense an entirely new energy, a Latin feel perhaps. Spanish Sunrise may also give you a further hint as to the nature of the inspiration behind this offering. I can relate to this, I lived in a country where cloud is king, now I live in one where the sun has taken the throne. Perhaps the author of this arrangement wishes for something similar in the future, and Ryan it is to be recommended, your music would be welcome at any sunrise across the Mediterranean.
Her Beauty Shines Through is up next. I found something quite beautiful about this arrangement, one that seemed to build with an honesty that is bathed in a loving performance. The careful and delicate presentation here on guitar made this one shine bright across the melodic horizon. After listening to this a few times I also wondered if it would be possible to put lyrics with it, it has that sublime sense of being a very memorable song indeed.
We have now arrived at the penultimate offering of the album and it is called Under the Willow Tree. I have spent many hours in nature, by rivers and under Willow trees, and can say from experience that this would be the perfect musical accompaniment for such a moment of reflection. The style reminds me of our very own Steve Orchard from his album Riverboat, that finger and strum works so very well here and manifests a summer moment by a stream with a blissful ease and it indeed is my favourite piece off the release.
So finally we have made our way to the end of our musical path and we are given one last gift before we must leave, this is called Winter Harbor. Cello’s are wonderful at creating winter moods and this is manifested here with a flowing narrative so mood filled and sullen. Judd’s guitar is almost picking its way through the snow as he goes; this has to be one of the most picturesque tracks off the album.
An Open Sky is a pleasure to listen too, the melding of tone between Cello and Guitar is sublime, each composition is created with care and attention to detail, but also with a true honesty and a loving sense of compassion. An Open Sky is a beautiful album that will not only speak to your heart, but to your very soul itself and as such, this release should be an album that features in everyone’s musical playlist as soon as possible, you can never have enough beauty in your life.
Rating: Excellent
Voices of the Guardians by Gareth Laffely
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2018
We can all be one!
Voices of the Guardians must be one of the most uplifting and inspiring Native American albums to have come out of the industry for a decade. Laffely and Bendiksen have indeed created with the help of the amazing Skywalker Symphony and the vocal talents of the outstanding Wes Studi, an album that will live forever in the hearts of all.
The symphonic nature combined with the utter brilliance on flue of Laffely simply stuns me into silence whilst listening, and tracks like the effervescent Spirit Quest and the breath taking Apache Tears are fine examples of this musical genius at work.
I usually like to name a favourite or two on my reviews, but this time I cannot do so, as each and every composition lays next to my heart with an abundance of joy and oneness, tracks like Sacred Hoop, an offering and a subject which is part of my very soul still raises the energies within me, the piano, percussion and flute all in perfect symbiosis is simple blissful.
Studi’s powerful words feature on many tracks and are especially empowering in the arrangement Reaching The Border. The piano of Bendiksen is truly superb here and narrates the tale of the journey so well with Laffely’s flute.
This entire album has been created through truth, love and respect and these qualities echo through the canyons of this album with an obvious intent to inspire the need of love, a desire of peace and tolerance of attitude; tracks like the inspiring Elders, and the last offering, the deeply moving Traditions remind us that this is so.
Voices of the Guardians has it all, dramatic flair, great style of composition and arrangement, perfect production, an honest and loving intent to highlight that perhaps at least through music, we can all be one, it would be impossible not to recommend this album it is that good.

Rating: Excellent
Beautiful Journey by Brenda Warren
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/18/2018
Bathe in the marvelous tones
There is something so utterly charming about Beautiful Journey by Brenda Warren, she has a unique style and creates such a blissful musical narrative with the piano, it is a Beautiful Journey indeed.
From the very sun kissed opening piece Imagine Spring she guides our way, and from its refrains flows so majestically into the lush and calming opus of Open Heart, a track so serene and calming, this contains the first essences of the magic hand of Will Ackerman’s team at Imaginary Road Studios with such a mournful, but soothing string section.
This voyage of charm and grace offers up a wondrous 12 magical tracks to simply get lost within. Like the title track itself or the absolutely delightful New Morning, once more embracing the subtle, but dreamy violin of Charlie Bisharat.
The ambience created by Warren on this album is beyond time and measure, we could wonder in its tones with ease, and helping us along the way would be gems like the peace filled Blue Sky Day, a track so redolent of sitting on the side of a hill and watching the day go by, and to finish with the so smooth and poignant offering entitled Forgiveness, was a touch of sublime genius.
Brenda Warren and Beautiful Journey has to be one of the most chilled and relaxing piano based albums I have heard for a long while. Warren has a performance style that is so musically colourful and sensitive, it’s just a pleasure to bathe in its tones and her marvellous creations and allow the tranquillity of the moment to take control, a thoroughly recommended album indeed.
Rating: Excellent
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