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Album Review: Celtique
Doug Hammer
Cover image of the album Celtique by Doug Hammer
Doug Hammer
2018 / Dreamworld Productions
64 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Celtique is the twelfth album by pianist/composer/producer Doug Hammer, and this time all fifteen tracks are solo piano! Hammer’s releases have been exceptionally varied and Celtique is unlike any of the others. It is about a day in the life of a fisherman, but it also tells the fisherman’s whole story. Four years in the making, Celtique was inspired by Hammer’s love of Celtic music as well as “the places, cultures and traditions I have experienced.” His wife is from Brittany, the Celtic area of France and the site of some of the world’s oldest standing architecture. I have reviewed all of Doug’s albums and have been fortunate to see him play live on many occasions - including a house concert in my home a couple of years ago. He never fails to blow me away with his creativity, sensitivity and mastery of the piano. A true artist in every sense of the word, Hammer continues to grow and to explore new territory with his music. Although he is usually categorized as a “new age” pianist, Hammer’s music frequently defies any categories. Celtique ranges from quiet and serene to majestic to highly energetic, but it is always beautiful and very expressive - and likely to be up for several awards (or should be!).

Celtique begins and ends with the title track “like an unbroken, sacred circle.” The main difference between the two versions is that after the quiet introductory (and closing) theme, “Daybreak” becomes a lively, exuberant dance and then calms somewhat - an intriguing start! “Through The Mist” opens mysteriously and feels very much like being in the midst of a dense fog - cool, still and a little bit spooky. The second theme is livelier and more dance-like with traditional Celtic folk rhythms. The third theme is powerful and dramatic before returning to a quieter version of the second theme - I love this piece! As its title suggests, the melody of “Wandering Path” meanders gracefully while the left hand keeps an easy walking pace. One of the recurring themes shimmers like sunlight on water and then the walking tempo returns. On “Crumbling Wall,” Hammer makes great use of the piano’s dampers to create an atmospheric effect. More ambient than melodic, it suggests images and a sense of place. The beginning of “She Beckons” feels very ancient before becoming more of a folk song/dance. The middle of the piece is passionate and very dramatic - another favorite. “To The Sea” is bold and almost triumphant, suggesting the excitement of setting sail with the wind in your hair and a big grin on your face! “Wind and Waves” is my favorite piece on the album. Also very big and dramatic, the heavy chords in the deep bass of the piano suggest waves tossing the fishing boat around as a storm rages. Undoubtedly, it was/is in such a setting that many fishermen have been swept away, never to return home. “Calm Water” is the opposite of the previous track, describing the tranquility that comes over the seas after a big storm. “Voices of the Past” has a very still, haunting quality that is both poignant and profound and is likely experienced often while being in an area that was inhabited more than 3 million years ago. “Moss and Earth” is another favorite. Often a study in contrasts - the deep bass and highest treble of the piano, subdued and quiet along with lively and forceful - it tells a fascinating story. The closing version of the title track, subtitled “Twilight,” is almost two minutes shorter than the opening track and brings the album to a quiet, peaceful end.

Celtique is available from DougHammer.net, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
September 5, 2018
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