2021 / Jonny Lipford
Review by Kathy Parsons
Balance is the follow-up album to flutist Jonny Lipford's amazing 2019 release, Migration. As he did on the previous album, Lipford plays a variety of Native American and world flutes as well as the backing instrumentation that includes piano, handpan, indigenous percussion, guitars and ethereal pads. Quoting the back cover of the CD, "The music on this album is more than just sound - it's a safe space, a healthy escape from your inner worries, stress and anxiety." During these challenging times of the COVID pandemic, most of us could use a little help in achieving that peaceful stillness we all need, and this album is certainly a big step in the right direction. More ambient than melodic, the flutes are layered over shimmering washes of the other instruments, creating a dream-like atmosphere that soothes and relaxes. In a clever bit of wordplay, the album begins with "Sun Salutation" and ends with "Moon Salutation," and the first letters of the first words in each of the seven other song titles spell the word "balance." The nine tracks range from about 5 1/2 minutes to 10 1/2, allowing the listener plenty of time to become one with the music and to fully appreciate its scope.
As I mentioned, Balance begins with "Sun Salutation," a warm and optimistic welcome to a new day that is full of potential. Flutes, handpan and nature sounds create a feeling of freshness and suggest the soft colors of dawn. "Believing Your Truth" goes to darker, more mysterious tones with a steady drum beat supporting the freer Native flutes and didgeridoo. I also get a strong sense of solitude, a state necessary when on a path to self-discovery and inner truth. "Affirming Your Desire" expresses warmth and wonder as you discover what you are truly capable of. The bansuri and Native flutes seem to float effortlessly over ambient washes of sound. The Native flute and Native drum in "Living In Your Power" suggest a quiet confidence and self-assurance that is its own kind of power and serves as a guide rather than a bullying kind of force. In "Awakening Your Heart," the Native drum keeps the steady rhythm of a heartbeat throughout the piece as the Native American flute, piano and ambient pads envelop the listener with the sounds of love and connection. The sound of ocean waves ebbing and flowing on the shore in "Clarifying Your Vision" adds a dimension to the Native American flutes and piano while ambient pads shimmer and sparkle in the background. "Enlightening Your Spirit" is peace and relaxation set to music. The Native American drone flute, percussion and ambient pads move slowly and very freely like a dense fog on a beach or rolling over the hills, taking with it any stress that might be plaguing your mind. "Moon Salutation" brings us to the end of the album and the end of our day. I really like the quote in the liner notes: "As you watch the sun sink into the ocean, the moon rises higher in the night sky. Knowing the moon is fed by the spirit of the sun brings you the greatest sense of peace. You understand this is the art of balance." Ahhhhhhhhhh....
Balance is a very beautiful album with a very meaningful message. It is widely available including on Jonny Lipford's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and Spotify.
March 1, 2021