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Album Review: Heart
Doug Hammer
Cover image of the album Heart by Doug Hammer
Doug Hammer
2013 / Dreamworld Productions and Design
78 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Heart is the much-anticipated follow-up to Doug Hammer’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed 2011 release, Travels. Greatly impacted by the tragic events in Newtown and the Boston Marathon bombings, the nineteen tracks are a loving tribute to those who lost their lives as well as a testament to the power of love. While this sounds like a potential downer, Hammer conveys the full spectrum of the human heart with his gentle (mostly), passionate (always) piano solos. Guest artists, vocalist Amethyste and cellist Velleda Miragias, add their own musical magic on three tracks. An intensely personal collection of original compositions (and one cover), Heart provides an emotional 78-minute retreat to a place of soothing warmth and loving kindness - something the world needs a lot more of!

Heart begins with the title track, a beautiful piece with a poignant melody and a steadily repeated left hand that conveys the beating of a heart - a very powerful opening. Hammer was thinking of time lapse photography of stars flying through the sky and the dizzying feelings of new love when he wrote “Spinning Sky.” He uses a rapid piano figure to suggest movement as well as a sense of urgency. The lyrical and very graceful “Your Face in the Moonlight” is a love song, pure and simple. Composed for his wife, it’s a slow dance from a dream. “For Camden” is one of two pieces Hammer has composed for a six-year-old boy who never had a chance. The loving tenderness that comes through the piece is a heartfelt and touching memorial. “Rain Clown” was inspired by a photo of a merry-go-round at nighttime in the rain. Very simple yet extremely haunting, the gentle, bittersweet melody expresses many emotions. “A Piece of Home” is the only piece with lyrics. Composed for Hammer’s parents, it’s a loving thank you from a grateful son. Amethyste obviously understood Hammer’s intentions with the song, as her emotional expression is perfect, as is Miragias’ cello. The one cover song is Hammer’s gorgeous arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” “Newtown” is quiet and simple, but achingly beautiful. Miragias once again adds the perfect tonal colors with her cello. Conveying profound sadness and loss, it is not without hope. A passage near the end of the piece becomes much bigger, with dark bass chords that gradually fade and return to the original theme - an amazing piece! “Fly Away” and “Shine Like the Stars” are both very spare and minimalist, overflowing with emotion and saying so much with so little. Both are favorites. “The Chimes Are Ringing” is quite different from the other tracks in that it is bright and celebratory. A reprise of “Heart” comes near the end of the album with vocalise by Amethyste as well as cello, adding new colors and even deeper emotions - stunning! The closing track is “Heart (epilogue),” which lightens the mood a bit and closes this amazing album with a gentle, understanding smile.

Heart is another spectacular achievement from Doug Hammer! It is available from doughammer.net (sheet music is also available there), Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
November 9, 2013
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