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Album Review: Castle Moon
Joseph Akins
Cover image of the album Castle Moon by Joseph Akins
Castle Moon
Joseph Akins
2015 / HeartSong Music
51 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Castle Moon is the fifth solo album from pianist/composer Joseph Akins, one of my favorite artists. Darker than most of his previous albums, Akins wanted this one to be the antithesis of his much lighter and more carefree A Southern Sun (2013), which was nominated as “Best Piano Album - Solo” by Zone Music Reporter. Castle Moon has already been nominated as “Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, so it’s being received exceptionally well, as it should be! The twelve tracks include Akins’ arrangement of the theme from “Game of Thrones” and a solo arrangement of his “1001 Nights,” which appeared on his 2009 Spirit Touch as an ensemble piece with percussion, electric bass, and strings. Along with being a gifted pianist/composer, Akins is a professor of recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University and holds advanced degrees in jazz piano and electronic music as well as a doctorate in education. Over the past several albums, Akins has been exploring the idea of a Southern (US) style of piano music, giving him a very distinctive sound that also contains elements of classical music and jazz. I have loved all of his previous albums and feel the same way about this one! I also need to mention that the cover artwork is stunning! Matt Strieby of Newleaf Design is amazing!

Castle Moon begins with the title track, a flowing, dreamy piece that hints at influence from David Lanz’s earlier music - no copying, just some influence. Sometimes buoyant and adventuresome, sometimes softer and more serious, it’s a great beginning! “Night Runner” goes somewhat darker and is something of a fast minor-key waltz after the slow introductory passage and at the end. The middle section is more flowing and features some of Akins’ “southern” touches that are uniquely his own. “Gypsy Dreams” is based on an exotic scale that Akins loves to improvise and write with. Slow, dark and very mysterious, it’s a beauty! “Moon Shadows” also hints at some “Lanzian” influences that are graceful and heartfelt. I really loved the first version of “1001 Nights,” but this new one is a mind-blower. Using the strings of the piano to create an exotic sound that is very un-piano-like, Akins creates a mood of very dark mystery that is intense, sultry, and magical. This is one of my favorites of all of Akins’ pieces! “A Nocturnal Waltz” evokes images of a couple slow dancing, illuminated only by moonlight - very romantic! I love the graceful and very peaceful “Star Dance.” Sweet and playful, I’m really looking forward to the sheet music for this one! “A Starry Night” was born when Akins was improvising while looking at a painting of nighttime scenery. Dark rolling bass chords punctuated by bright twinkling flashes in the treble create a very vivid picture. “Moonlight Romance” is a tender and calming love song - perfect contentment under a moonlit sky. Sigh! “Twilight Lullaby” brings this wonderful album to a delicate close, overflowing with warmth and love, and expressing a perfect peace.

Castle Moon is quite different from Joseph Akins’ previous albums, and yet it is definitely “him,” expressing a somewhat different side of his creativity. It is available from josephakins.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
October 15, 2015