The Winding Path
2003 / Real Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
As a long-time fan of Kevin Kern’s music, I’m excited to say that I think The Winding Path is his best album to date. Due to a serendipitous equipment failure just prior to the recording sessions, this album is much more acoustic than previous albums and the “canned” strings are all but gone. Kern recorded this album on an amazing Hamburg Steinway that he refers to as “God’s own piano,” and his passion for this instrument sings through on each piece. Joining Kern on this album are 2002 (Pam Copus does an incredible job on all of the wind instruments, and Randy supplies bells and other sounds), Jeff Kinsky on guitar, Jeremy Cohen on violin, Terence Yallop on bells on one track, and Kevin’s wife, Pam, on rainstick. And then there is that piano. The combined forces produce a “great big soundscape” (Kevin’s quote) that may surprise some of his fans. The music is still very gentle, soothing, and uplifting, but the feel and quality of the album is bigger and fuller. I love it! Kern says that the difference in his approach to this album is that this music will be the “heart and soul and center” of his live appearances - concert audiences are in for a real treat!
“The Touch of Love” opens the album on a rather ethereal note. The 2002-influence is really strong on this piece, and it is a truly beautiful collaboration. Pam Copus’ flute has such a feeling of yearning, combined with sweet voices, and that marvelous piano (and pianist!). “The Way of the Stream” is a gorgeous guitar/ piano duet with a few additional sounds for color. “A Million Stars” is a wonderful piece that Kern created in the studio at Terence Yallop’s suggestion that he “play the sky.” (Pieces like this make my fingers itch!) The clarity and sparkle of the upper registers of the piano are perfect for depicting a clear night skyscape away from the lights of the city. This is definitely one of my favorite Kern pieces (not just from this album). “High Above the Clouds” begins with the sound of a thunder storm; Pam Copus comes in on Native American flute, playing a lovely, melancholy melody. Then the piano picks up the melody and develops it. The piece becomes a flute and piano duet with some background accompaniment. “Through the Veil” is a classic Kern anthem with the addition of a rhythm track. Mostly piano and guitar (with Pam on rainstick!), the melody is compelling and heartfelt - another one of my favorites on this album. My favorite track on “The Winding Path” is the title track, which features Kern on piano, Copus on flute, and the incredible Jeremy Cohen on violin. An achingly beautiful piece, this one touched me deeply each of the ten or so times I’ve heard it.
Bravo to Kevin Kern and company for producing a “real” standout! A guided visualization is included in the liner notes for those who are so inclined, but the music is vivid and colorful enough that you can probably produce your own daydreams to accompany it.
March 2, 2003