In the Soft Light of Grace
David Nevue – Midnight Rain Productions
It’s been four years since David Nevue’s album, Winding Down, which I labeled his pièce de résistance, the best release of his career. Now, I am left even more amazed at In the Soft Light of Grace, which not only equals Winding Down, but surpasses it, something I thought not possible. The 13 tracks vary in mood and tempo, but somehow Nevue weaves a cohesiveness into the whole as he deftly maneuvers through quiet somber passages and dramatic moments of passion and power. As usual, his liner notes are well-written and reveal the “why” and “how” of the album. Be sure to give this prominent shelf space due to its stunningly beautiful cover art.
Voice of the Ancestors
Grayhawk – Subspace Music
Grayhawk’s visionary, ambitious Voice of the Ancestors serves as a triumphant conclusion to his Shamanic Trilogy (Shaman Journey and Blissful Magic – Spiral of the Celtic Mysteries). Labeling this album as “ambitious” is an understatement what with its assorted global influences, sterling production quality, and huge cast of guest musicians. While there are overt world music influences present, New Age and ambient also surface. Some tracks feature vocals (e.g. “Peace Prayer” vocalists sing/chant in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Farsi). Voice of the Ancestors serves to define Grayhawk’s oeuvre, capturing his passion and commitment to making the world a more peaceful place and displaying his affinity for our planet’s myriad cultures and peoples.
Paradiso & Rasamayi – 5th Element Music
Paradiso and Rasamayi have helped shape the current meditative music landscape. Agape Evolution: The Movement is their new epic two-disc recording, and I do mean epic. The two musicians fuse motifs from the New Age, world, and ambient genres, via Paradiso on traditional and crystal digeridoo, crystal tuning forks, keyboards, hand drums, hammer dulcimer, harmonium, tampura, and throat singing while Rasamayi lends her amazing mantra chanting, as well playing Alchemy crystal singing bowls and crystal didgeridoo. Agape Evolution mesmerizes with sounds both primal and ethereal in nature, propelling the listener inward, exploring the cosmos that lies within us all and reshaping our consciousness “to facilitate [an] evolutionary leap into an ever-increasing embodiment of Divine Love.”
Deuter – New Earth Records
Deuter’s latest release showcases this ground-breaking New Age music pioneer’s amazing versatility of styles and moods, as well as his stellar performing talent on a dizzying number of instruments, e.g. flutes, percussion, keyboards, cello, koto, sitar, santoor, and more. Whether the flowing melodies of the opening title track, the cheery bounciness of ” La Forét,” the jazz-inflected piano on “Manganu,” or the downtempo charm of “Friendly Valley,” the New Mexico resident (his studio is in a forest outside of Santa Fe) never ceases to amaze and entertain his legion of fans, this reviewer included.
Timothy Wenzel – Coyote Flow Music
Throughout keyboardist/pianist Timothy Wenzel’s recording career, his strength has always been his strong sense of melody. His music is instantly accessible, featuring catchy refrains and a blend of styles and moods. Recently, he started asking guest artists to join him (previously he used keyboards for other instruments), and it has sparked a renaissance of his artistry. On Running Away, he is joined by violinist Josie Quick, English horn/oboe artist Jill Haley, and percussionist Jeff Haynes. Wenzel’s music has ascended to an even higher level of quality and soulfulness. Imbued with both genuine sweetness and subtle drama, the 12 tracks will reward the listener from start to finish. Display prominently due to its haunting cover art.
There is a Light That Will remain
Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe – Prema Shakti Music
I don’t know that I can adequately convey how special and even revolutionary the album There Is A Light That Will Remain is, and not just in the chant genre. Anchored by the startlingly beautiful vocals of Larisa Stow (singing in English, Sanskrit and Hebrew), Stow and the musicians who comprise Shakti Tribe take the listener through 10 tracks travelling through a dizzying assortment of musical genres, yet it is Stow’s vocals that injects cohesion throughout. The album presents a veritable cornucopia of influences: chant, folk, rock, world, jazz and more. Excellent musicianship, flawless production, and Stow’s staggering vocal versatility (whether soft, sultry, soaring, or sensual) are present throughout. Prepare to be amazed!
Massergy – Spotted Peccary
Even by the lofty standards of the Spotted Peccary label, Massergy’s Fire Opal is a truly special album. Massergy (Eric Jensen) creates a multi-hued assortment of ambient soundscapes, each track showcasing Jensen’s talent in varying style, mood, tempo, and overall aesthetic. Some songs feature guitar prominently with layers of melodic keyboards underneath, while others flow gently, more closely resembling classic spacemusic. The album was recorded solely outdoors (!) on a balcony overlooking a nature preserve in the middle of the night, and without the use of sequencers, loops, software, or plug-ins. Massergy’s Fire Opal breaks new ground in Spotted Peccary’s library of adventurous instrumental music recordings.
Scott August – Cedar Mesa Music
Scott August belongs with the best of Native flute fusion artists and he has been there for years. What distinguishes him from others in the genre is his abundant virtuosity on an assortment of instruments besides the Native flute, including guitar, keyboards, piano, drums, exotic percussion and other world beat instruments. All of these come into play on Beyond Summer, his latest release and a worthy addition to his discography. Whether gently rhythmic with a laid back mood (“High Desert Dreams”) or pulsing with primal energy (“Spirit of the Canyon”), August taps into the world’s natural beauty and channels it into his music, resulting in a dazzling display of sonic imagery and inventive melodies.
Blue Moon Rising
Acoustic Ocean – Self-released
In 2016, Peggy Morgan, one half of the duo Acoustic Ocean, passed away from cancer. Bette Phelan, the remaining member, took some time off to heal from the loss of her friend and partner. Now, she returns with Blue Moon Rising, an album of 11 lovely tracks (including one on which Peggy can be heard, recorded before her death). Phelan plays guitars, bass, bowed dulcimer, and more. Influences on this soulful album include New Age, folk and Celtic, but Phelan’s compositions are unique unto themselves and her considerable talents on all her instruments is well-showcased. Guest cellist Kay Aldrich adds just the right touch when she sits in.
Nocturne – The Piano Album
Vangelis – Decca
One of the true innovators and giants in instrumental music, Vangelis is beloved by countless fans and he has gifted them something different on Nocturne. Comprised of 17 tracks culled from his career, these are new versions with the main melody carried by grand piano only accompanied by subtle orchestrations and occasionally another instrument or two. By reducing the usually powerful Vangelis elements present on other albums, the core beauty of each song’s melody is revealed with new depth and intricacy. The piano is heavily reverbed which underscores the emotion and evocation of these selections. No doubt longtime devotees will bliss out to this one.