James Michael Stevens
2021 / James M Stevens Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
January is a collection of twenty original piano solos composed and performed by James Michael Stevens, Chairman of the Music Department at Welch College in Tennessee as well as an incredibly prolific composer. Much of the music on this album is quiet and pensive, reflecting the more contemplative moods and quiet stillness of winter. This is the twelfth album of Stevens' that I've reviewed, and a lot of his music is very warm and romantic while this album is much cooler and somewhat moodier. (That isn't a criticism at all - just an observation.) These pieces are not overly complicated - it's the emotional content that really draws you in and keeps you coming back for more. Fellow pianists will enjoy knowing that there is a companion songbook for January available to download on SheetMusicPlus.com; individual pieces can also be downloaded there.
January begins with "In Dreams of Love," a piece overflowing with tenderness and longing - a beautiful beginning! The title for "Winter Blues in a Colorado Sky" could be interpreted a couple of different ways, but the melancholy melody indicates that the "blues" in this case is very much a sad feeling as much as a brilliant sky color. "Romantic Prelude in E Minor" was obviously influenced by Chopin with a more contemporary setting - my favorite piece on the album. "Mirror Lake" is very dark and haunting - icy! "Quiet Reflection" makes me think of staring out a window but not really seeing what's out there because you are lost in thought. "Follow Your Heart" overflows with warmth, grace and encouragement. I love the mysterious "Forbidden Cavern." Hmmmm - what is in there and why is it forbidden? There are no answers in the piece, but it's fun to think about while listening! "Night of the Full Moon" also has a mysterious feel about it, but I can almost see a full moon reflected in the snow on a dark and cloudless night. "Peaceful Sunrise" is much warmer and more optimistic. "Sea of Gray" moves slowly but steadily with broken chords flowing up and down the piano keyboard. The effortless movement makes me think of a dense fog on the beach where you can see only a foot or two ahead of you while a heavy mist swirls around you and makes everything quiet. "It's No Small Thing" is a bit different with a slightly bluesy/gospel feel. The album closes with the gentle and sincere "Softly in My Prayers," a sweet ending to a beautiful album!
January is available to stream or download from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify and other sites.
March 23, 2021