James Michael Stevens
2022 / James M Stevens Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
There are some really prolific composers around, and always have been, but when it comes to James Michael Stevens, I'm not sure anyone else comes close. He has released 44 albums since 2019 - thirteen so far this year! At the moment, he has more than 6800 items on Sheet Music Plus that include solo piano, organ music, choral music and more. It's an astounding body of work - especially with the consistently high quality of the music! I've reviewed a lot of James' recordings and sheet music, but I think Autumn Voices is one of my very favorites (so far). Gentle and very melodic, the ten original piano solos are perfect for unwinding, background music for a quiet dinner, studying, and any other activities where soothing piano music is appropriate and/or welcomed. As usual, sheet music is also available to download. (Dr. Stevens writes his music first and then records using the sheet music, so the sheet music is a note-for-note match to the recordings.)
Autumn Voices begins with "Come When the Leaves Turn Colors." Slightly nostalgic and bittersweet as well as slow and dreamy, it's a lovely opening! "October Prelude" is a little more energetic and flowing - a warm welcome to fall! A romantic slow dance, "Sunnywood Waltz" gives me images of dancers moving gracefully among the falling leaves. Piano pieces about music boxes are often played in the upper half of the piano keyboard, and some of "Autumn Music Box" is in the higher notes, but it's mostly in the "normal" mid-range of the keyboard. Slow, dreamy and poignant, it's one of my favorites on the album. "Beside the Gentle Stream" is sweetly hypnotic and very relaxing - soothing and easy-going. "Hunters Branch" picks up the tempo and vibrance a bit with a colorfully descriptive piece that seems to express joyful contentment. There aren't many things more peaceful to watch than the graceful movement of a swan on a lake, and "Swan at Lake Almsee" beautifully captures that feeling of tranquility and elegant movement. As its title suggests, "Silent Teardrops" is quiet, melancholy and introspective - touching and very beautiful! A soliloquy is usually a moment of truth spoken only to oneself, and "Solemn Soliloquy" has a slightly mysterious quality that also seems very honest - a moment of clarity. It's also a favorite from this album. The album closes with "I Saw a Star and Prayed," a piece with a simple but heartfelt melody that gives it a hymn-like quality.
Autumn Voices is a beauty! It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Give it a listen!
November 5, 2022