Cheryl B. Engelhardt
2022 / Cheryl B. Engelhardt
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cheryl B. Engelhardt's The Passenger, is an album whose story is almost as interesting as the music itself. In a nutshell, the album was composed and produced in its entirety on a nine-day cross-country train trip between NY and LA (and back again). It is also interesting to note that this is one of only a few ambient recordings that have been composed, mixed and mastered entirely by women. Collaborators on the album include GRAMMY winners Lili Haydn, Sangeeta Kaur and Danaë Xanthe Vlasse, as well as Sherry Finzer and the Dallas String Quartet. All of these artists were sent files from the train to add their own magical touches and then send them back to Cheryl.
The project began when Cheryl B. Engelhardt was invited to perform at the 2022 GRAMMY awards pre-party that was originally scheduled for January 2022. Rather than flying from New York to Los Angeles, Cheryl decided to take the train. Two weeks before her departure, one of her closest friends died of cancer, and the long train trip in a "roomette" became a way to process her grief as well as to create this music, which is quite different from her previous albums.
The Passenger begins with "The Beautiful Bridge," which features award-winning violinist Lili Haydn along with synths, a female voice, and some very light nature sounds - a lovely start! "The Light That's Left" is the first single that was released from the album, and is a very quiet yet sparkling meditation sure to soothe the soul. "The Chariot" was also released as a single and features Dallas String Quartet whose website shows the slogan "Where Bach Meets Bon Jovi" - obviously a very eclectic group! This beautiful piece is one of my favorites and is something of a daydream set to music. "The Misty Cosmos" is quite a bit darker, but is still very peaceful and dream-like - perhaps sailing effortlessly through space and time. "The Two Feathers" features flutist Sherry Finzer playing a hypnotic bass flute over slowly undulating synths, creating a feeling of gentle, easy motion. If "The Angels' Lullaby" doesn't ease away any stress or tension you might be experiencing, take a deep breath and play it again! It's a beauty and a favorite! "The Zephyr Remembers" refers to the Amtrak California Zephyr and features the incredible operatic vocals of Sangeeta Kaur over what could be interpreted as the rhythm of the train traveling on the tracks - also a favorite! Pianist Danaë Xanthe Vlasse appears on "The Message," a darkly-mysterious piece that makes me think of traveling at night as the landscapes flow by the window, illuminated only by the stars and moon. "The Ambient Love" closes the album with warmth and a gently optimistic expression of hope and healing.
The Passenger is a fascinating project and a pleasure to listen to for relaxation, meditation, and as peaceful music to enjoy for its own sake. It is available from Amazon, Bandcamp, Apple Music/iTunes, and streaming sites such as Spotify. Recommended!
For more information about the creation of the album, be sure to watch the video "Creating The Passenger" video on YouTube!
April 21, 2022