Review: Todd Boston: “Touched by the Sun”

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, following his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced…

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by Kathy Parsons

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, TB Face Smile CRfollowing his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced by Tom Eaton and Boston, the album features an impressive list of contributing musicians that include Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Snatam Kaur‘s vocals, Ramesh Kannan on tabla and cajon, and Michael Manring and Tony Levin on basses. Boston performs on guitars, dotar, flutes and bass and composed all twelve pieces, some of which were arranged by Ackerman.

A Very Positive, Uplifting Energy

With such a stellar group of collaborating artists, it is no wonder that both the music and the sound quality are truly exceptional. Boston has studied with the masters of a dizzying range of musical genres, and his compositions reflect an assimilation of many cultural styles. All of the music has a very positive, uplifting energy, and it’s fascinating how Boston shifts from Eastern stylings to Americana without missing a beat.

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Songs of Joy that Lift the Spirit

Touched By the Sun begins with a short prelude for dotar and cello that establishes the eclectic tone of the album. Hypnotic with a hint of mystery, it’s a great start! “Twilight,” features guitar, dotar (a simple Indian lute), flute, cello, tabla, cajon, and bass. The gentle finger-picking style on guitar gives the piece a very relaxed and contented feeling that is enhanced by Friesen’s soulful cello. “Celtic Heart” is a favorite. Guitar, cello, bass and percussion combine to create a folk feeling that overflows with emotion and passion. Darker than most of the other tracks, it really sings! “Sol Rising” goes in the other direction with a song of joy and new beginnings that lifts the spirit and lets it soar. “The Brightest Night” begins as a peaceful guitar solo and gradually evolves into a guitar/cello/violin trio with supporting percussion. I really like this one, too! “Under the Orion Sky” would be perfect in a film showing open fields or meadows or any kind of peaceful, serene setting. Love it! “Full Moon” picks up the tempo and energy level tempered with a haunting, mystical quality. Guitars, flutes, violin, tabla, cajon, and fretless bass cast a hypnotic spell. “Cascading” is just Boston and his guitar, with dotar adding occasional embellishments (also Boston). Peaceful serenity at its best! “Waves” was recorded on the day of the Japanese tsunami (3/11/11) after watching videos of the massive destruction. Intense yet very beautiful, this piece is dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges. The last track on this exceptional album is the title track. Guitars, bass, Snatam Kaur’s elegant voice, violin, and light percussion soothe and uplift, leaving the listener refreshed and with a sense of well-being.

A Wonderful Musical Journey

Todd Boston has created a wonderful musical journey for everyone who loves soulful guitar and world music styles with substance and beauty. Touched By the Sun is available from www.toddboston.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Todd’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Fiona Joy: Signature – Solo

Breathtaking ClaritySignature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise…

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Breathtaking Clarity

Signature – Solo is Fiona Joy’s long-awaited (by me, anyway!) first solo piano album, and what a beautiful surprise it is! phoca_thumb_l_fionataamp3_500Produced and recorded by Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast Records, Signature is being released in several formats, including audiophile SACD and high resolution downloads. (My review copy is a “standard” CD, but the sound quality is still amazing!) A classically-trained pianist from Australia, Fiona Joy has created an impressive collection of recordings beginning with her 2004 release, Portrait of a Waterfall as Fiona Joy Hawkins. Some of her more recent albums were recorded at Imaginary Road Studio and co-produced with Will Ackerman, who refers to Fiona Joy as “one of the brightest lights in contemporary instrumental music.”Signature was recorded on an 1885 Steinway piano, and every nuance comes through in breathtaking clarity. The album features a solo version of “Grace,” which was included in the 2014 Grammy winning Winds of Samsara by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, and a duet version of “Once Upon Impossible” that features Lawrence Blatt on acoustic guitar as well as Fiona’s ethereal vocals. Nine of the ten tracks are purely solo piano at its colorful, expressive best.

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No Ordinary Solo Piano Album

Signature – Solo begins with “Ceremony,” a lively, upbeat piece that sets the tone of the album and tips listeners off that this is no ordinary solo piano album. “Grace” is likely to become one of Fiona Joy’s “signature” pieces, as it occasionally refers to some of her earlier pieces that haven’t been as widely heard as her more recent work. It’s a wonderful piece as either a piano solo or an ensemble piece, but I really love the solo version. The melancholy “Fair Not” has a flowing left hand that gives it a subtle energy. Dark and very expressive, this is somewhat different from much of Fiona’s other music. There are two versions of “Once Upon Impossible” – a piano solo that is poignant and heartfelt, and the second that includes Fiona’s vocals and light guitar accompaniment by Lawrence Blatt, a fine artist/composer in his own right. Both are exceptional. “Calling Earth” is a somewhat shortened version of “Earthbound” from 600 Years in a Moment.“Invisible Train” is my favorite track. High energy and very spirited, I hope sheet music is planned for this one! The elegant title track is slow, pensive and very heartfelt – gorgeous! As its title suggests, “From the Mist” is cool and has no hard edges – very fluid and free, colored in muted shades of gray and blue. “Little Star” concludes this very special album with a sweet and tender piece that tells its story simply and without a lot of embellishment.

Elegant Touch and Soulful Playing

I truly hope this is just the first in a series of solo piano albums from Fiona Joy. Her elegant touch and soulful playing have always made her one of my favorites. I have been fortunate to have Fiona Joy perform two house concerts in my home, so I have been able to watch her play several times – always a treat that needs to be shared! The “normal” CD and downloads are available from Amazon and iTunes. The audiophile recordings are available from Blue Coast Records. Very highly recommended!

Fiona’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     Blue Coast Records     Fiona’s Artist Page

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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