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Album Review: Northern Sky
Brian Crain
Cover image of the album Northern Sky by Brian Crain
Northern Sky
Brian Crain
2000 / Crain Records
50 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
I discovered the music of Brian Crain earlier this year, and have found his CDs to be a breath of fresh air. Northern Sky is Crain’s fifth album, and consists of piano accompanied by synth. All of the songs are fairly slow and the melodies are simple and straight-forward. If I had to compare Brian Crain’s music to anyone’s, it would be Wayne Gratz’s (one of my favorites). A few of his pieces also remind me of early-Yanni at his poignant best - Northern Sky fits this category with its heart-tugging melody and unfettered emotion. No new ground is broken, but I’m sure none was intended to be. This is sweet, relaxing, heartfelt music that is effective in the background, but can also stand alone as a primary focus. A favorite recording of massage therapists all over the country, it is easy to imagine sailing away to bliss listening to Crain’s music with or without a great massage!

Brian Crain writes his pieces before titling them, and then uses titles that he hopes will serve as a starting point for listeners. I had listened to the CD quite a few times before looking at the titles, and was surprised by several. In the liner notes, Brian talks about the power of music and how it conjures up different images for different people - something that obviously happens here. I believe this occurs the most often with music that is open and from the heart. Crain’s music is so genuine that it can touch the heart of anyone willing to be moved by it.

Northern Sky”, the title track, is my favorite piece on this CD. It has a very simple melody and a flowing bass line. I usually dislike synth strings in the background, but they add a lovely melancholy feel to this piece. “Break in the Clouds” is sunny, but also very powerful. The title’s image can be literal or taken metaphorically - hope abounds. I also really like “Mirror Lake” - a peaceful, flowing bit of musical poetry. “Wild River” is much too gentle for its title - a springtime breeze in a sunny meadow is what it makes me picture. Such a lovely piece full of hope and optimism! “Feather in the Wind” picks up the pace just a little with a floating, swirling, rubato. “Perfect Rainbow” is overflowing with warmth. “Glacial Valley” is another favorite - a bit cooler and more aloof than the other pieces, but just as sincere.

I strongly recommend Northern Sky and Brian Crain’s other recordings to those who love gentle piano with light synth accompaniment.
January 1, 2000
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