Soul of a River
2020 / Myndstream
Review by Kathy Parsons
Jon Durant is known primarily as a guitarist, but on Soul of a River, his main instrument is the piano. An experimental artist as well as a rock musician for many years, Durant keeps his music vibrant and fresh by letting it evolve in different directions rather than allowing himself to get stuck in any particular genre or niche. This is Durant’s tenth solo album, and he has also released three albums with Burnt Belief (with Colin Edwin). His unique “cloud guitar” soundscapes, his distinctive approach to the fretless guitar, and his engaging lead work have graced numerous recordings and film soundtracks.
Durant explains his motivation and goals with this album: “With Soul of a River I wanted to capture the feeling of peace and stillness that I experience living right on the Willamette River. There’s a meditative quality to the experience of watching the river flow past that I hope is reflected in this music—both through the sounds and the melodies.” Durant explains in an online interview with Michael Whalen that even when the surface of a body of water seems calm and glassy, there is still constant movement. Several of the six tracks express that restless quality while others are more still and reflective, resembling ambient “space” music.
Soul of a River begins with “Tributaries,” a piece that uses layers of looped sounds that I assume symbolize a variety of tributaries that come together to form a river that is much more powerful than its individual parts. Lively yet very relaxing, it’s an intriguing start! “Estuary” is far more pensive and ambient with a slow, gentle flow that moves easily and with grace. “Glistening” has layers of sound that emulate the slow movement of water as beams of light dance freely on its surface. The tempo speeds up a bit about mid-way into the piece, and then those dancing light beams really sparkle! Guitars are more prominent in “Watercourse” than in some of the other tracks. Darker and more mysterious with atmospheric sounds that suggest a peaceful stillness, this piece is magical and very soothing. “Current” loops a light, sparkling pattern that flows through much of the piece, sometimes over a dark drone in the deep bass that creates a beautiful contrast! Over the course of the track, the patterns gradually evolve in a number of directions - similar, but different, and always changing. “Flow” is an eclectic mix of piano, guitar and light percussion. Moving easily from light and breezy to darker and more intense, it’s an impressive ending to an excellent album.
There is a really interesting interview with Jon Durant and Michael Whalen on YouTube that gives a lot more background on the creation of Soul of a River. The album is available from Myndstream, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and Spotify. Be sure to check it out!
November 13, 2020