Where Butterflies Dance
2016 / Orange Band Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Ann Sweeten’s twelfth album, Where Butterflies Dance, was co-produced by Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. Sweeten’s music is always warm and lyrical, reflecting her love of nature, staunch environmentalism, and animal activism. It also stems from a life in the arts as a professional actress, singer, and dancer as well as a pianist and composer. The album includes performances by several other instrumentalists in addition to Sweeten’s on a Steinway B grand piano and synthesizers.
In the colorful 8-page booklet that is included with the CD, Sweeten explains that: “Throughout the world, in all cultures spanning history, from ancient times until the present, the metamorphosis of butterflies has been a source of wonder. Many legends or myths about butterflies have arisen in very different cultures that are representative of renewal, transformation, death and rebirth, awakening, courage, love, joy and hope.” She goes on to explain several of the ways in which butterflies are symbolized and then addresses the more specific crisis where Monarch butterflies are on the brink of extinction due to the loss of milkweed plants on their migration route. I love and admire the way that Sweeten uses her music to effectively raise awareness of issues dear to her heart, making them dear to many more hearts - hopefully in time to make a difference.
Where Butterflies Dance begins with the poignant “A Trace of You,” a deeply emotional ballad that features Akane Setiawan on English horn and Charlie Bisharat on violin, expressing great loss. “Broken Wing at North Light” is equally heartfelt, thanks in part to Eugene Friesen’s soulful cello behind Sweeten’s delicate, flowing piano touch. “Elysian Fields” is a piano and ambient guitar (Jeff Pearce) duet that gracefully illustrates how heavenly it would be where butterflies dance. “Love Among the Ruins” refers to the growing number of species nearing extinction. Friesen’s cello and Setiawan’s English horn represent the voices of those species as they struggle to be heard - achingly beautiful. “Veil of Tears,” the only piano solo, is very elegant and graceful. “Sateo” expands the environmental message by telling the story of a great bull elephant who was killed with a poacher’s poisoned arrow in Kenya in 2014 for the ivory in his tusks. The elephant was likely about fifty years old and had been adapting his behavior to avoid humans. The heartbreaking story is expressed as a duet for piano and Andrew Eng’s violin, which represents the beauty and grace of Sateo’s spirit. The title track is “both a call to action and a prayer for hope that we might find a place where butterflies indeed dance...” (quoted from the liner notes). Trisha Craig’s flute and Eng’s violin bring a gentle grace to this evocative piece.
Ann Sweeten’s efforts to change the world with her music are both commendable and compelling. May her music reach the ears and hearts of many people who will join in her mission. Where Butterflies Dance is available at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Recommended!
March 20, 2016
Review by Kathy Parsons
Review by Michael Debbage