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Album Review: Blue Ridge Reunion
Bill Leslie
Cover image of the album Blue Ridge Reunion by Bill Leslie
Blue Ridge Reunion
Bill Leslie
2008 / Capitol Broadcasting Company
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Blue Ridge Reunion is Bill Leslie’s musical tribute to and celebration of his father. Bill’s father, also named William Leslie, died when Bill was a teenager and he never had a chance to say goodbye. Thinking of his watercolor paintings, Bill visited some of his father’s favorite landscapes in search of musical inspiration. Words and music started to flow as he felt his father’s presence - a magical and powerful reunion of spirits. Bill Leslie has been called “one of the greats in modern Celtic music” by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, which is heady but well-deserved praise. Bill is also an award-winning journalist and co-anchor for WRAL news in Raleigh, NC, where he and John Tesh roomed together and worked at the same radio station right after college. Blue Ridge Reunion is a collection of eleven instrumental and three vocal selections, and the music ranges from simple folk songs to fully-orchestrated compositions with a cinematic sweep. Most of the pieces are titled for places Bill’s father painted and/or shared with his son and obviously come from a very personal and emotional place. It’s a fascinating experience to hear Bill’s musical interpretations of what his father captured visually in his watercolors. A companion book of William Leslie’s watercolors and Bill’s memories of growing up with him in North Carolina will be available shortly, and this music makes me very anxious to see more of the artwork!

The CD opens with “The Bluffs,” Bill’s father’s favorite inn just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It begins as a guitar solo, and becomes somewhat more orchestrated as it evolves. Celtic whistles, violin, and percussion add spirit and fullness, but this piece remains quite simple, direct, and very beautiful. “South Mountains” is a bit more sweeping as it describes the majestic vistas Bill’s father painted in this area. Piano, strings, brass, and whistles create a lovely color palette. “Valle Crucis” is a somewhat more somber duet for piano and whistle. About halfway into the piece, strings enter and lighten the mood to a more dancelike spirit. “Water of Life” is a touching song in the folk tradition about deeply-affecting experiences shared by father and son. “Moses Owl” is a favorite. Named for a Cherokee friend who told Bill’s father about The Trail of Tears, a tragic chapter in our nation’s history, the piece is dark and passionate. The title track is about the spiritual bond Bill made with his father during this project. Warm and tranquil, love flows from each of the notes. “Climb That Mountain” is a joyful and enthusiastic ode to hiking. “Great Eyrie” is another favorite. Guitar and whistle describe vast open space and awe-inspiring mountains, while orchestration adds colors and scope. “Attacoa” is another “big” piece that paints vivid pictures with a variety of musical instruments. What an inspiring musical journey!

Blue Ridge Reunion is a wonderful listening experience that tells of places and events both large and small, but all very powerful and affecting in their own way. The music is sure to delight and uplift! The CD is available from billleslie.com, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, and other retail outlets. Recommended!!!
September 5, 2008
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Guitar musicKathy's Favorites: 2008