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Album Review: True North
Michael Straugh
Cover image of the album True North by Michael Straugh
True North
Michael Straugh
2004 / Straugh House Publishing
53 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
True North is Michael Straugh’s debut recording, and is made up of twelve piano solos composed over a period of about fifteen years. The musical themes cover many of life’s experiences and the emotions that go with them. Sincere and unpretentious, the music has an effortless charm. I only wish it had been recorded on a good acoustic grand piano. A sampled Yamaha C7 just doesn’t have the rich sonority of the real thing, detracting a bit from the emotional impact of the music. Straugh tends to repeat phrases in certain pieces, and varying the sound quality keeps the music more interesting and colorful. I don’t know if electronic instruments will ever be able to fool an experienced ear, but they aren’t there yet.

Overall, the music has strong classical elements with some jazz touches. There are several tracks that I like a lot. “Scheherazade” has a beautiful dancing quality that is quite elegant. The left hand maintains a 3/4 waltz rhythm as the right hand plays colorful swirls up and down the keyboard. This is my favorite! The title track tells of “truths only the heart can hear.” Darkly melodic, the piece is quite pensive and reflective. “The Kiss” seems so somber for the subject, but the piece has a real grace about it. Deeply introspective, the music has no superfluous notes and feels emotionally true. “First Breath” also has a simple honesty that comes from the heart. “Lullaby” is much lighter and gentler in tone, creating a soothing breath of fresh air. I also really like “Sunday Mornings Here With You,” unabashedly romantic, full of love and peace.

True North is a very promising debut from Michael Straugh. I would love to hear the music on an acoustic piano, and hope that will be his choice on future recordings. Samples of the music are available on michaelstraugh.com.
March 22, 2005
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums
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