2018 / Willow Bay Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Way back in 1999 the artwork of the Jim Wilson’s debut album Northern Seascape caught this reviewer’s eye and needless to say the ear candy to follow matched its dynamic cover. Since then songwriter, pianist Jim Wilson has released several titles that have warranted glowing reviews, the last one being 2010’s renditions of the late Dan Fogelberg on his Leader Of The Band album. With less embellishments than his past recordings but no less appealing, Wilson arrangement wise has continued this trend here on Remembrance. However, this time we are invited to his first batch of compositions since 2007’s Beneath The Olympian Skies and needless to say the wait was worth it.
Upon first glance, the title of the album Remembrance: A Collection of Cinematic Portraits seemed somewhat confusing. The words remembrance and portrait would suggest reflective and less embellished music while cinematic gives you a sense of the more dramatic. Whether this was an intentional decision by Wilson it certainly accurately describes the array of emotions that are musically expressed within. The title perplexed the reviewer enough that clarification was sought from the artist himself who responded by describing the album as “a reflective travelogue of emotions.” Musically it is a complete match of an array of emotional encounters further compelled by the recent loss of his Aunt Billie Joe who “embodied unconditional love”.
The more stripped down reflective moments can be found on “In The Stillness”, “Tangerine Moon” and the closing track “Denouement Piano”. Even during these starker silhouettes you can hear a sense of hope and joy best found in the quiet understated harmony of “In The Stillness” as well as the moving closing track “Denouement Piano”. Even better Wilson’s sense of melody and harmony is best embraced via “Home Is Where The Heart Is” showing that the dramatic does not have to be big and bold just elegant and emotive. Simply stellar.
As for those songs featuring greater embellishments, after its slow intro the opening track “Shadows Falls” has the quintessential distinct qualities of what we have come to expect from Jim Wilson. Similar results can be found on the dramatic “Diogenes Lantern” as well as the stunning “Under A Highlands Moon”. It does not hurt to have a little help from Wilson’s musical friends. These include arrangements/keyboards of Brad Cole, drummer Charlie Morgan, bassist Neil Stubenhaus, guitarist Troy Dexter and Eric Rigler on Irish Flute and Uilleann Pipes. Rigler’s contributions date as far back to Wilson’s impressive debut and his presence is felt no less on this album. This is best captured on the magical merger of Wilson’s piano and Rigler’s Irish Flute on “The Girl From Eastland County”. Add the playful cover song “Thank You For Being A Friend” and you will find no filler on this excellent album.
While Remembrance may not have the quick impact appeal of Northern Seascape and the outstanding A Place In My Heart, this does not take away from just how exceptional his latest recording is. Wilson’s own compositions will slowly seep into your soul and tantalize you with his understated yet not underwhelming performances. Inconspicuously seducing you, you will fall in love with his latest craftsmanship and work of art. Needless to say Remembrance is yet again another unforgettable performance from the piano man Jim Wilson.
September 9, 2018