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Album Review: The Cinder Notes
Amy Lauren
Cover image of the album The Cinder Notes by Amy Lauren
The Cinder Notes
Amy Lauren
2019 / Amy Lauren
51 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Cinder Notes is the eighth album from Amy Lauren, a pianist/composer that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reviewing for going on twenty years. The thirteen original compositions were largely inspired by the natural beauty of Lake Superior “because it just feels like home.” I think this quote from Amy’s website explains her focus very well: “The title is rustic and unique. Minimalism and nature. Smoke and fire. Simplistic, basic inspiration from intriguing stories of the Lake Superior area. Merging music with nature in a minimalistic way only solo piano can.” Expressive and flowing, there are no flashy piano pyrotechnics on this album, but the stories Amy tells with her music take us to places that are wild, free, sometimes dangerous, and always beautiful.

The Cinder Notes begins with “Sable Island,” a reference to an isolated island off the coast of Nova Scotia where wild horses run free. Inspired by a book Amy purchased with photographs of these horses, the piece expresses the loneliness of such a remote location as well as the freedom it provides the horses. “Grey Wolf Crossing” was inspired by the true story of a wolf that crossed the ice bridge from Canada to Isle Royale just off the North Shore of Lake Superior. The piece reflects on the mystery of journeying into the unknown as well as the dangerous icy waters beneath the wolf’s icy path - a favorite. “Deep Hollow Cove” is the name of the place pictured on the album cover. Although it is a gorge rather than a cove and is on the North Shore of Lake Superior, it reminds me of several places here on the Oregon Coast. The piece itself is cool, peaceful and very calming. “Spirit Cedar” refers to a tree that is estimated to be 300-400 years old and still lives on an Indian reservation just south of the Canadian border. The area where the tree stands is considered sacred and the music reflects on the tree’s spirit, beauty and strength. “Smoke on Hawk Lake” refers to the winter sea smoke on Lake Superior as well as to watching a fire in the distance from the shore. The piece has a very slow, unhurried flow that beautifully describes the graceful movement of smoke as it rises into the atmosphere and dissipates - also a favorite! The deep emotions in “The Visitor” were generated by a more personal experience that needed to be expressed with music - another favorite. I can’t wait for the sheet music for “Woodlands” with its dark but peaceful vibe. “Tamaracks” has a strong melody and a flowing rhythm that give it substance and sparkle. The title track reminds me a bit of some of Michele McLaughlin’s music. The repetitive patterns on the left hand are hypnotic and mysterious while the right hand is freer and more expressive. I really like this one, too! “Wintertide” was composed during one of many snowstorms in Wisconsin last winter. Quoting Amy, “This song has a quiet strength, just like winter… The representation here is cinders in a fire fading away, just like nature fades away during the Winter. The song ends, but then returns for one last set of notes.” It’s a powerful yet chilly ending to another excellent album from Amy Lauren!

The Cinder Notes is available from www.AmyLaurenPiano.com, Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, CD Baby and many streaming sites.
March 6, 2020
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