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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
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Dividing the Darkness
By Steve Rivera
Label: Self Released
Released 10/15/2015
Dividing the Darkness tracks
1. My Way Home  
2. This Ancient Road  
3. Help Me To Listen  
4. Skyward  
5. Beautiful Years  
6. So Quickly Gone  
7. Delicate Force  
8. Valley Of Light  
9. Skyward Coda  
Divide and Conquer
Taking on the idea of darkness in one's life, be it physical or spiritual is a big task. Steve Rivera does just that on his debut album, Dividing the Darkness. For many, just getting up in the morning is monumental. Dealing with the kids, the neighbors, the co-workers, and the bills, is small compared to dealing with self-doubt, heartbreak or even depression. I have learned from Steve's music that you can pick and choose your battles. I have discovered that it is the small steps, the little skirmishes fortified with faith that get the job done. Steve's album offers up nine tracks of contemporary piano with light accompaniment as well as some strong solo piano compositions that offer hope and promise.

My Way Home is a gentle intro into the fragility of Rivera's overall themes. There is a positive flow to the music, nothing ever harsh or adverse. The music, with soft violin accompaniment says to me that you have seen what you want to see, done what you wanted to do, but there is a yearning that must be satisfied. And the music suggest that it is. Charlie Bisharat's violin is a welcome companion in this tune.

Beautiful Years, is a warm piano ballad with Eugene Friesen on cello and Jill Haley on English horn. It is a retrospective on the time that passed as life changed, events unfolded and brought you to the present. It is soft, tender music tempered by good memories and happy thoughts.

Another song about the passing of time is called So Quickly Gone. It is a soulful piece, almost a lament. Producer and legendary guitarist Will Ackerman adds a hue of melancholy to the mix with a simple guitar garnish. It begs the oft asked question, "where does the time go?" that only seems to get a speculative answer at best.

One of my favorite numbers on this nine track contemporary album is entitled Delicate Force. It has Jeff Haynes on percussion, Noah Wilding on vocals and Tom Eaton on keyboards. The song has a pronounced classical music overtone, but with a modernistic phrasing. Old meets new, now meets then. Perhaps it is the musical equivalent of water on rock as it wears away the layer of worry and smooth things out.

Valley of Light is one of the few capricious tunes on Dividing the Darkness. This is not just a piano tune suggesting sunlight and lollipops. It clearly represents a vibrant path to a light to and from many sources and an internal track is certainly one worth considering. The music is made weightless using French horn by Gus Sebring and electric bass by Tom Eaton.

Skyward and Skyward Coda, are perhaps the best tracks on the album. They are evocative to the point of being nostalgic. Where do we look when we wish to amble through the darkness, but to the sky? We look for sun, we look for the stars and we hope for the moon. Steve's solo piano version, Skyward Coda is a fitting farewell, as he proves in every track that there is light up ahead and it is ours for the taking.

Steve Rivera’s premier album is obviously a harbinger of great music to come. This one already stands on its own as a testament to crafty compositions and a delightful mix of instruments that blend flawlessly to build and maintain his themes. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 7/18/2016
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