A Place In My Heart
2004 / Willow Bay Music
Review by Michael Debbage
This album was originally released as Sanctuary in 2004.
Wow! The month of January is not even over and if this album is indicative of the year 2004 it is going to be an enormous year for Contemporary Instrumental music. With synonyms such as safe haven, asylum, and shelter, A Place In My Heart more than lives up to its title. However, this album is not just about escape but also pure bountiful entertainment that is prolific, luxuriant and exquisite. Though not a carbon copy of his excellent debut Northern Seascape, Jim Wilson has presented his audience with a collection of compositions that will astonish you.
Back in 1999, while sifting through the used discs at my local neighborhood music store, I found Northern Seascape. The appeal was instant and to follow up on this freshman effort was an audacious task. Yet he accomplished this with confidence via Cape Of Good Hope. However, the album was not quite as fervent as his startling debut. Nevertheless, it was a proud moment. Still, I was wondering whether Northern Seascape, as brilliant as it was, would become his thorn in the side due to it being a benchmark that was impossible to surpass. Certainly, the strength of A Place In My Heart has put all these concerns aside as, once again, Wilson has presented us with another gem that deserves many accolades in the months to come.
The beauty of this project is the artist's daring move to avoid duplicating his first disc. Yes, we still have the trademark tenderness of Jim Wilson with the light Celtic use of Irish flutes, whistles and those gorgeous yet distinctive uilleann pipes, but this is no longer the emphasis. Wilson has made some adaptations with his delivery thus making the album rich and more expressive. This time he emphasizes the use of strings, giving it a robust and full-bodied feel to it. Add Chris Botti on trumpet and you could only imagine the beauty of this music.
There is no better place to start the hearty sounds of A Place In My Heart than on the opening track, "Morning On Cannery Row." The song opens with the powerful but delicate use of violin, viola and cello, which is then empowered with the slow but authoritative percussion work, topped off with Jim Wilson's fine piano work. Okay, so he borrows from David Foster as he slips off from one key to another, but there is no better influence than Foster. The same string arrangements that introduce the song concludes it and then fades, gliding right into the mellow affair of "A Place In My Heart" without skipping a beat. Absolutely beautiful. Add some voice sampling and percussion work representing a slow relaxed heartbeat; every note is perfectly placed.
"Eagles Flight" paints a similar vibrant word picture. This time, the vivid pace places the listener into the flight path of the powerful but graceful eagle. It does not hurt to include the expressive soulful work of trumpet player Chris Botti. Countered with the poignant nylon strings of guitarist Ricardo Silveria, I would venture to say this is one of the album's many finer moments.
"Hunter's Moon" and "California" continue to hold the high standard set by the first four tracks. Then Wilson transforms the setting with lyrical content courtesy of the pleasant "Foolish Me." Much like Jim Brickman and David Foster, his voice is average but certainly not unpleasant. While "Foolish Me" breaks the streak in the instrumentation setting, it is a mellow and low key affair and does not distract from the mood. This tactic is revisited via "If The Morning Never Comes" which features Wilson in a duet with the ever ready Marilyn Martin. This time around, the exploration of lyrical content is a little more successful with some sweet harmonic work. "Luna De La Jolla" brings us back to the reality that Wilson's greatest strength is in his unspoken word.
What amazes me is Jim Wilson's ability to secure well-known guest artists to appear on his recordings that are produced at impeccable high quality levels without the backing of a major label. However, this does not divert from the fact that he is an amazingly warm and creative composer, arranger and producer. A Place In My Heart simply personifies this statement and there is no doubting that it will be a strong candidate for Album of the Year despite the fact that it is only January.
December 27, 2009
Review by Michael Debbage