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Firelight by Terra Guitarra
- posted by gena on 2/24/2015
Exquisite Latin-Style Guitars

Terra Guitarra is a duo that features two acoustic guitars playing a fun, fiery, toe-tapping, modern, Latin style of acoustic, instrumental music. Their latest album, FIRELIGHT, contains a dozen catchy originals plus their version of the Hispanic classic “Malaguena.” Their last album went to #4 on the monthly international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 chart. This highly-popular touring act has performed more than 2,750 concerts during the past decade. The music is grounded with the powerful grooves of rhythm-guitarist Julie Patchouli, and gets passionately melodic through the lead-guitar picking of Bruce Hecksel. The music falls into the contemporary genre known variously as nuevo flamenco or nouveau flamenco. Regardless of the tag, this duo plays it as well as anyone in the field (Ottmar Liebert, Johannes Linstead, Jesse Cook, etc.). Terra Guitarra puts a few twists into the mix (Julie playing steel-string while Bruce solos on nylon string, Bruce using a pick for speed and precision attack rather than fingertips). Highlights of the Terra Guitarra sound are the extremely melodic compositions, the rock-solid rhythmic base the music is built on, and Hecksel’s soaring lead solos that propel the music forward with ever-present excitement. Recommended.
Rating: Excellent
Undercurrent by Michele McLaughlin
- posted by Michael Diamond on 2/24/2015
Undercurrent by Michele McLaughlin
A great number of the instrumentalists I write about, and pianists in particular, tell of years of study, private lessons, music academies and conservatories, and the like. It’s not as often that I hear a pianist who has reached an extremely high level of proficiency with no formal training and being completely self-taught. However, Michele McLaughlin is one of them. In her words: “I just learned to play by listening to other musicians, and it wasn’t long before I was composing my own songs.” Now 15 albums later, Michele is a well-recognized artist in the new age solo piano world and has become an in-demand performer.

Speaking about being a prolific performer, the opening track, “11,000 Miles,” about her 30 shows in 26 states tour, over a period of two months is a perfect example. This song makes a wonderful opening piece for the album and totally captures the sense of fun and adventure that Michele described in the liner notes. It is lively and upbeat with a rolling-down-the-highway feel to it. This being the first song of Michele’s that I heard, I must say that my response was a big “wow!” The thought that kept coming up for me was: “I cant’ believe this person is self-taught!” Her dexterity is notable and I was quite impressed with the composition itself, and particularly with some of unusual and unexpected chord changes she used.

I greatly appreciated that Michele included liner notes, which gave a brief description of the inspiration behind each song. A good example was “Changing Skies.” That imagery came to life in my mind’s eye as I listened to the composition in peaceful reverie. Another remarkable aspect of Michele’s playing is emotional spectrum she is capable of revealing in her music from one piece to the next. A case in point was the effortless shift from the gentle warm-hearted “Full Of Love” to the more pensive and wistful “The Space Between,” which follows it.

Michele enters some deep and thoughtful emotional terrain on the album’s title track. This piece digs deep below the surface to uncover subterranean emotions, sometimes quite intense, as in the middle section. While it doesn’t reflect the sunny ambience of some of her other music, it truly highlights Michele’s talents as a composer and pianist. “Undercurrent” provides a rich and rewarding listening experience from a stellar artist who truly deserves all the acclaim she has been receiving. I have no doubt that Michele McLaughlin is someone we will be hearing more about as she builds a legacy with each successive release.

To read a full length review of this CD, as well as others, please visit:
Rating: Very Good +
Spiritus by David Wahler
- posted by Michael Diamond on 2/15/2015
Spiritus by David Wahler
From the opening notes, the listener is enveloped in a soft warm cocoon of heavenly choir sounds on the album’s title track. It’s a wonderful welcome that prepares you for the serene listening experience that is about to unfold. As the piece develops, light percussive touches are added. What is interesting, however, is that in a lot of music the beat or percussion is much more prominent in the mix driving the song, while the more atmospheric elements are in the background. Here it is the opposite, and the percussion adds a subtle sense of forward motion without overpowering the ambiance. It’s a lovely balance that brought to mind the music of English recording artist Medwyn Goodall, as a reference point. While the next track, “Mystic Voyage” doesn’t have percussion a gently percolating sequencer provides momentum. The keyboard melodies that David plays over his ethereal backgrounds are often understated and serve to maintain the meditative air.

On “Whispers from Eternity,” wind and sparkling harp glissandos create a timeless soundscape to drift away on. One of my favorite tunes was “Metamorphose,” which evolves from a dreamy formless state to a more upbeat, motion-driven composition. I particularly liked all the little spacey electronic sounds that weave in and out of the sonic tapestry. Another sound that added a refreshing new voice was the airy flute melody that graces a track called “Devi.” A number of terms from Eastern religion appear in David’s titles, reflecting the inspiration of his music. David’s commitment to creating music that fosters inner peace is part of what appeals to me about the album and gives the music its lofty ambience. While David is classically trained on piano, he is quite adept in the ambient electronic realms and has an excellent sense of the kind of sounds, and their arrangement, that will enhance the ethereal nature of his compositions.

Each song is distinctive yet they flow together in a beautifully cohesive listening experience that allows the listener to remain immersed in the soothing vibe they create from beginning to end. In addition to enjoying it for active listening, it also makes a perfect backdrop for meditation, yoga, massage, or just relaxing after a long day. With his latest release, David Wahler has crafted a spirit-filled soundtrack to serenity that could appeal to a wide audience.

Rating: Very Good +
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