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The Maiden of Stonehenge
By Michael Brant DeMaria
Label: Ontos Music
Released 12/18/2012
The Maiden of Stonehenge tracks
1. Lost Village
2. Mysterious Stranger
3. Enchanted Forest
4. Chantress
5. Moonlight Myst
6. Trowie Mor
7. Web of the Wyro
8. Glasfar
9. Natura
10. Spring of Solace
11. Healing Heart
12. Anam Cara
13. Stonehenge
The Maiden of Stonehenge
As he did on Siyotanka, multi-instrumentalist (flutes, percussion, keyboards, and more) Michael Brant DeMaria has composed the soundtrack for a play, effectively telling a story in the process. Whereas Siyotanka was based in Native American legend, The Maiden of Stonehenge centers round the mythology of ancient Great Britain. The story: A disfigured orphan girl, Teagan, is cast out by ignorant village folk. She wanders through the countryside, meeting up with various companions, encountering mythical creatures and having adventures, until she makes her way to her final destination, Stonehenge. Teagan's voyage changes/transforms her, both inwardly and outwardly. She emerges from her quest with a newfound sense of self and purpose.

Joining DeMaria is Maggie Crain, who contributes her ethereal vocals on two tracks. While there are some Celtic influences woven into the fabric of The Maiden of Stonehenge, DeMaria also incorporates New Age, ambient, and world elements as well. The principal instrument on most tracks is flute but a variety of them are used, although most sound like they are made of wood (however, since no instrumentation is listed in the liner notes, I could be wrong here). DeMaria once again displays near surgical precision at layering and mixing in his assorted keyboards. That he also does his own producing and engineering makes his recording(s) even more impressive. The flawless mastering was done by Lucky Kelson of Lucky K Studios.

Mood-wise, the over-riding feel of the album is a blend of haunting mysticism and gentle beauty, although there are a few moments when drama and power are heard. The liner notes detail each track's "story" so "following along" is both easy and rewarding. Lost Village opens the album in a downcast mood with strummed guitar, minor key synth textures, and a haunting solitary flute line. The guitar, through its rhythmic strumming, imparts a visual sense of movement, as Teagan sets out on her voyage. Mysterious Stranger carries over the same forlorn flute sound, but there is delicate warmth present as well. Here, the guitar is strummed more slowly and the mood lightens but just a tad. Enchanted Forest starts off with bird song and harp, soon bringing two different flutes into play. The music conjures images of walking into the titular forest, sun breaking through the dense canopy at times, but being consciously aware of the deep magic which lives in the trees. Threatened by a strange creature, Teagan breaks into a mystical song on Chantress and her "soul song" (per the liner notes) soothes the creature to such a degree that he joins the travelers as they continue onward. Crain's vocals gently soar as she sings in an ancient tongue, also accompanied by spoken word vocals underneath the singing.

Web of the Wyrd has DeMaria bringing rhythm into play through what sounds like a bodhran (or a frame drum). The tempo is lively yet mysterious, heightened by both the upper register whistle DeMaria uses (sounding a little like a bird chirping and singing) as well his chanted lyrics in an undecipherable tongue. Listening to this track, I unexpectedly flashed on Junior Homrich's brilliant soundtrack to the John Boorman film The Emerald Forest (highly recommended film, too). Glasfar is moody, atmospheric, and ambient in nature, with sparse bell tones, flowing somber synth pads, and flute, accompanied by the sound of distant thunder, the sound of which also ushers in Natura (as well as crickets and wolfsong) and has DeMaria taking up the frame drum again, but much more subdued this time. As the piece evolves, the drum beats become faster with more drums added as a flute flits and dips in the air. Anam Cara, is solidly New Age in musical style. DeMaria puts his flutes aside, and takes up piano, harp and keyboards, all played in minimalist style, delicately, with birdsong sometimes joining the instruments. The CD ends with Stonehenge as Teagan's voyage reaches its end. Keyboards and muted bass drum beats swell with muted power and what sounds like a crackling fire is heard in the background. Crain's vocals are once again present, again combining actual singing with spoken words underneath (these could be the same lyrics as the earlier song but I can't be sure).

The Maiden of Stonehenge does what all good soundtracks should do, i.e. make you want to see the play/movie. Michael Brant DeMaria composes excellent "visual" music, so I can understand why he is selected for these soundtrack gigs. Of course, even without "the story" itself, The Maiden of Stonehenge would still be an enjoyable recording, especially through headphones or a first rate speaker system since the mix and production are so first rate. I've sung this artist's praises in past reviews, and once again, I continue to be impressed with his ability to transport the listener to so many vast and varied musical environments, almost effortlessly it would seem. I can't even fathom where this man's talents will take us to next, but I sure can't wait to hear it!
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 1/22/2013
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