The Winding Path
2003 / Real Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Back in 1996, the burgeoning label Real Music introduced the world to the magical and captivating music of Kevin Kern. His debut, In The Enchanted Garden, was (for lack of a better word) enchanting. Due to the strength of Kern's debut, he has been unable to surpass himself; that is until now. Without a shadow of a doubt The Winding Path will take you on a surreal journey to the center of your heart and back again.
I still remember the day when I first introduced myself to Kevin Kern's music. I had been glancing through the New Age section when the startling artwork of In The Enchanted Garden caught my eye. It did not hurt that the CD was on the then relatively-new record label Real Music. I figured why not give the disc a whirl. The beauty of his simple, straightforward, and unassuming piano work immediately captivated me. Yes, the swirling synthesizers instead of strings lacked a little warmth but it did not take away from the compositions of this piano man that I had never heard of.
With the exception of the year 2000 Kevin Kern has released an album every year (if your were to include 2002's compilation More Than Words). And while all five albums of original material have been impressive, they have never quite reached the peak of In The Enchanted Garden. In fact, his last solo effort Embracing The Wind, while pleasant enough, was probably one of his weaker projects when compared with his other efforts. Thus the timing of The Winding Path is impeccable and is without a doubt the most audacious and impressive writing of Kern's career. Gone is the emphasis on the manufactured string arrangements, replaced by several guest artists who add wonderful layers of warm human performances. The most obvious inclusion is the work of 2002's Pamela Corpus featured on flute on the opening track "The Touch Of Love." The song is quite simply gorgeous; flowing with a soothing melody line that will instantly appeal to you.
Long time partner Jeff Linsky on guitar is brought to the forefront on several tracks. The most blatant spotlight is seen via his collaboration with Copus on the harp on "The Way Of The Stream." Kern's growing confidence in his own ability is apparent where his piano plays the support role instead of the featured player.
For those of you reluctant to change and who love the instrumentation of Kern's piano, do not fear. Though there are some changes, the transformation is not radical. An exception to the rule is "High Above The Valley," which includes the flute of Coyote Oldman that leans toward a Native Indian sound. Kern's piano work lays the foundation of almost percussion embellishments. The song opens and closes with soft, distant rumbling thunder. Nice touch. Though if you prefer the ivory keys to play the vanguard role then just skip right to the hauntingly beautiful "A Million Stars" which is unequivocally divine.
Though the opening track is very impressive, the most momentous track is "Through The Veil." Once again Linsky's guitar work is in the spotlight with some well-balanced percussion work to compliment Kern's splendid piano tinkering. Very close to stealing the stellar moment is the title track which closes the album featuring Pamela Opus on flute and Jeremy Cohen on violin. The blend of the threesome results in the unification of a flawless performance.
If I could borrow from Kevin's song, this album is a "Cauldron Of Healing." The addition of a written guided visualization, which I would prefer to refer to as a peaceful meditation, is also a nice touch. But it is the quiet storm on the disc that will bring tranquility and serenity to help keep you in the eye of your own personal hurricane. The Winding Path is certainly Kevin's personal best to date or for that matter the year 2003. The bar has been set.
March 3, 2003