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Awaken Me by Kimberly Haynes
- posted by Michael Diamond on 8/20/2016
Awaken Me by Kimberly Haynes
On her new album, “Awaken Me,” vocalist Kimberly Haynes paints musical portraits from a diverse palate of influences that include new age, folk, soft pop, world music, and more. Her expressive voice ranges from soft to soaring with thoughtful and inspiring lyrics that touch the heart and illuminate the spiritual quest. Subtitled: “Songs from the Heart of a Seeker,” the spectrum of her eclectic and enlightening vocal performances evokes both the tenderness of a mother’s touch and the ancient feminine power of a tribal priestess singing her truth for the betterment of the community.

While Kimberly’s beautiful voice is clearly the focal point of the album, it is impossible not to mention the role of co-producer David Vito Gregoli, whose own “Om Land” album, I recently had the pleasure of writing about, and which Kimberly was a guest on. Vito was deeply involved in all aspects of production and arranging the songs as well as performing on a vast array of instruments. A number of talented musicians such as Peter Kater, Tina Malia, and others also appear as special guest artists on the album.

The title track which opens the album begins with a melodic chanting of Om by Kimberly accompanied by the earthy sound of Byron Metcalf on frame drum and percussion. As the song evolves it becomes more of an ensemble piece with David Vito Gregoli (Vito) on guitars, synth, and bell, and Aeb Byrne on hang drum. It’s heartfelt refrain about awakening, remembering, and listening make for a beautiful entrance into Kimberly’s inspirational music. A song entitled “The Jewel” is a ray of pure sunshine with its upbeat pop rhythm with a hint of R&B and world music. It’s a real “feel good” song that would make a great thing to listen to first thing in the morning to get your day going on the right track. A more mysterious vibe is heard on “Do I Dare,” that features the primal didjeridu sound of Stephen Kent, as well as Gareth Laffely on Native American flute, and other previously mentioned musicians. On this song, as well as some others, in addition to vocals, Kimberly also plays percussion.

Among the things I’m impressed by with this album is its range. Not only in the wide variety of styles, influences, and instruments, but in the range of Kimberly’s voice. Whether it is soft and sweet like a lover’s words in your ear, or rocking it with power and passion, there is an authenticity in Kimberly’s singing that makes you feel that this is someone who has experienced the highs and lows of life and uses them all to deliver her songs with heart and soul. All in all, “Awaken Me” is a truly uplifting listening experience.

To read a full-length feature article on this album, as well as others, please visit: www.MichaelDiamondMusic.com
Rating: Excellent
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree by Terry Lee Nichols
- posted by Michael Diamond on 8/20/2016
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree
For some recording artists, their songs or the theme of their album can be abstract conceptually, while for others like Florida-based composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist Terry Lee Nichols, it can be extremely personal. The album features 17 songs that paint portraits of experiences had and vignettes of life moments captured. Terry’s love of music for film adds a cinematic dimension to his sound.

As can be expected from the title track which opens the album, the song has a serene and nostalgic ambiance that invites the listener into Terry’s musical and personal world. The graceful piano melody is augmented by rich strings and orchestration that Terry played on the keyboard with virtual instruments, making for a wonderful beginning to the album. On most of the songs, Terry is creating all the sounds. However track 2, “Only You,” as well as two other songs were recorded live in LA with a number of A-list musicians whose credits collectively include Yanni, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, James Taylor, Madonna, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, and a long list of major artists. There’s an easy rolling feel to the song with hints of pop and smooth jazz influences. One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Timekeeper,” has a more cosmic perspective. The song has a dynamic repeating arpeggio that provides a sense of forward movement with lush layers of strings providing an expansive ambiance.

The interestingly titled,” On My Way To See The Dancing Sisters Figg,” taps into a different side of Terry’s musical spectrum with a wee bit of a Celtic flair. It’s a lively upbeat tune complete with pennywhistle sound that may inspire you to dance a little jig, if only in your mind. “Sailing” was one of the three tunes that was recorded with the studio musicians in LA, as mentioned above, and was also one of my favorites on the album. It has a breezy, wind in the face feel that carries you along on its jazzy positive energy. Undoubtedly, Terry has saved the most powerful, dramatic, and moving piece for last, which goes beyond being a song to being more of a musical documentary dealing with the issue of gun violence. Along with the music, the track features a number of newscast clips and sound bites that make for an intensely compelling listening experience.

I am greatly impressed by Terry’s skill, not only as a superb pianist, but also as a talented composer and arranger. Terry’s love of film soundtracks is very much in evidence here, and many of his compositions would make outstanding movie scores. Although this is his debut album, it definitely feels like the work of a mature and seasoned recording artist. With an auspicious start like this, I’ll be looking forward to many more cinematic soundscapes from Terry Lee Nichols.


To read a full-length feature article on this album, as well as others, please visit: www.Michael DiamondMusic.com
Rating: Excellent
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree by Terry Lee Nichols
- posted by Candice Michelle on 8/19/2016
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree
“At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree” is the debut album from pianist and composer Terry Lee Nichols. Comprised of seventeen tracks spanning just over an hour, Nichols has drawn much inspiration for this album from deeply personal experiences and events occurring throughout his lifetime. He is joined by other musicians on varying compositions, including Luis Conte on percussion, Joel Taylor on drums, Craig Sharmat on guitar and Hussein Jiffry on bass. Farzin Farhadi is the album’s producer and also lends soprano sax, while Franz Pusch is the recording’s engineer. A live string orchestra is prominently featured throughout, infusing much of the music with a sweeping and cinematic feel.

The title track sets the mood for the rest of the album with its melodic ensemble of piano, guitar and string instruments. Nichols often lends a delicate touch to his playing that is accompanied by sweeping stanzas with a sentimental flair. Several of the compositions feel distinctly seasonal in nature and I particularly enjoyed the ones that reminded me of autumn and winter. The beautiful “Timekeeper” is one such example which bears a cinematic quality that would deem it perfectly fitting in a Christmas themed fantasy movie. Its glistening textures and light bell-tones mimic that of falling snowflakes, as the hurried pace of the piano and accompanying strings feels like rushing to reach a destination. A particularly intriguing moment on the album includes the highly realistic sound of a passing train on “Train to Dachau”, which eventually comes to a stop before leading into a tender arrangement of piano and strings. The magical “A Winter’s Tale” is another favorite of mine in which a haunting piano melody moves through minor keys amidst gossamer strings and streams of light. “Last Train Home” is another traveling piece that features piano, bass, guitar and percussion. Its steady rhythm mimics that of a moving train while the overall composition bears subtle elements of smooth jazz. I’m also particularly fond of “Autumn”, which is characterized by gentle strings and a peaceful piano melody. Its added chimes sprinkled over a symphonic and tender arrangement of instruments perfectly capture the sun’s golden rays peering through a tree’s turning leaves.

Overall, I found this album to be positive and uplifting with much of its content seemingly fitting for a Hallmark Channel movie. Most of the compositions exude an emotionally tender and sentimental quality, while incorporating an overarching theme of travel, time and changing seasons. Those who are especially fond of neoclassical, contemporary instrumental and cinematic piano-ensemble music will likely find much here to appreciate. ~Candice Michelle (Journeyscapesradio.com)
Rating: Very Good
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