Well, for those who wondered when the esteemed Windham Hill imprint would re-emerge, I'm saddened to inform you that this matter seems off the table…but…I'm happy to say WH's spirit is more than amply embodied by Lawrence Blatt, to whom the cherished label's founder, William Ackerman, has taken quite a shine, again producing his work but this time also ushering a number of high caliber accompanists: Charlie Bisharat, Jim Rothermel, Lila Sklar, Eugene Friesen, and others. The result sounds just like an LP long lost from Windham's early days, a collection of pastorales and chamber pieces straight from an Americana ambit, wheatstraw delicate and prairie wistful, skyblown, sun infused, and thoughtfully paced.
Bisharat's contributions are significant against Blatt's oft threnodic fingerpicking, the former providing the colors of the wind, the latter the ghosts of the past and present in a quiet theater of reminiscences. When the two blend, as several times in Poloyne, the result is almost eerie, a chilling spiritual poignancy that cuts through what, in other hands, would be staid sentimentalism. All cuts here are miniature expositions unto themselves, but I have to say I was most impressed by Blatt when solo and in duet, first in Entering the East Gate, alone, and then in Where the Pines once Stood, a pair-up with Richard Sebring on french horn…then even later in Illuminations, another solo. But then, I'm an aficionado of guitar above all else. Still…Jim Rothermel's pennywhistle in Passing up Bridges is an album standout, and Sebring's french horn is panoramic.
Blatt also displays an elegant hand in art design and created the visual atmospherics for Emergence, a well appointed exercise in simplicity and balance, quiet and unprepossessing but eye-catching, speaking of understated qualities and promises, much like his music. As the side era of New Age and 'adult contemporary' oeuvres quietly collapses in upon itself, softly tumbles into the abyss, no one much noticing, musicians like Lawrence Blatt are finding the way cleared for more intelligent work to step in and re-establish ground in the soothing thoughtful opuses that were all too rare even before muzakmeisters were ushered in to man the cash registers.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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