2020 / Darla Bower
Review by Kathy Parsons
Blue Butterfly is the second full-length album from pianist/composer Darla Bower, following her 2014 debut, Mountain’s Majesty. Written for and dedicated to the memory of her mother, Ethel Mary Dawson (1926-2017), the album chronicles Darla’s very personal and emotional journey through tremendous loss, grief and her mother’s transition. The music also reflects on the loss of Darla’s mother-in-law, Judy Bower (1944-2016) and her beloved dog, Gentleman Bailey (2009-2018). Fellow pianist/composer Michael Logozar produced the album and the music was recorded on his wonderful Shigeru Kawai grand piano. The album includes eleven original piano solos and Darla’s arrangement of a classic hymn. The title refers to Darla’s nickname for her mother “because she was brilliant, beautiful and was the happiest person I have ever known.” This is obviously not a light-hearted album, but the music always expresses deep love as well as hope within the unfiltered emotions. Three singles from Blue Butterfly were released previously - “November Skies” (2018) and “Gentleman Bailey” (2019) and “Sleepy Star Lullaby” (2019).
Blue Butterfly begins with “Woodland Fairy Dance,” a whimsical piece that envisions fairies dancing through an enchanted forest at twilight, having some fun before settling down for the night. The title track expresses the intense emotions Darla experienced while being present as her mother left this world and started her next journey. Dark and mournful, the grief she experienced runs through every note. “Gentleman Bailey” pays tribute to the memory of “the gentlest soul I've ever known; with big brown button eyes that would melt your heart.” Losing a pet is always painful, but some leave a gaping hole in your heart that never quite heals. It’s obvious that Gentleman Bailey was that kind of dog. Judy Bower, Darla’s mother-in-law, loved doves. “At dawn the morning after her passing, two beautiful white doves landed in a tree in the front yard. We knew it was sign that she was in her new life.” “Mourning Doves” was written for her and quietly expresses very deep grief - dark yet elegantly beautiful. “Falling Petals” has a very visual quality as the notes often drift down the piano keyboard like rose petals in a soft breeze. Symbolic of the way memories “fall” over time as well as a reminder that time passes quickly, it’s one of my favorites on the album. Graceful and very beautiful, “The Swan’s Song” is about beauty in conflict and comes from a very deep, personal corner of Darla’s heart. I also really like “Blue Day,” a piece Darla calls “bluesy funk.” Written for her mom and the many days that are “blue” as she misses and remembers her, it’s slow and soulful. “The Lord’s My Shepherd” is Darla’s lovely arrangement of a very old hymn. Blue Butterfly closes with “Prelude - New Beginning,” a piece that announces that “Mom’s transition is complete and she is on a journey into a new beginning.” Simple and hopeful, it’s a beautiful way to end this very heartfelt album.
Blue Butterfly is currently available from Amazon and Spotify.
May 2, 2020