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Album Review: Refuge
Nate Hance
Cover image of the album Refuge by Nate Hance
Nate Hance
2022 / Steven C
35 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Refuge is the seventh album from pianist/composer Nate Hance, the first artist to be signed to Steven C's new record label. Recorded on Steven's magnificent Bosendorfer grand piano, the ten solo piano tracks are relaxing yet masterful and include the most elegant version of "Oh Susanna" I've ever heard. Also known for his videos of creative song arrangements and "mashups," Nate plays more than 300 gigs each year for numerous audiences around the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota areas. He also provides a musical respite for stressed travelers at the MSP Airport and plays regularly for memory care, nursing home and assisted living residents. A graduate of Concordia College with a degree in composition, Nate's focus there was on classical and jazz piano. After that, he performed on cruise ships, traveling to more than sixty-five countries around the world. Nate plays with the easy confidence and grace of someone who probably feels the most comfortable when seated with a piano keyboard at the ends of his fingertips.

Refuge begins with "A Little Diddy," a ballad-style piece that tells a story without words. Warm, gentle and slightly bittersweet, it's a charming start - and you get to decide what the story is about! "Fall Colors" seems to reflect on the beauty of autumn colors mixed with a touch of sadness at the change of seasons and the coming of winter - a wonderfully expressive piece! "Bells" has a clear, bell-like repeated pattern that runs throughout the piece with variations that keep it evolving as it progresses. The title track was partly inspired by a Sherwin-Williams paint color called "Refuge" that Nate's wife and mother-in-law chose to paint his studio. He stared at the wall as he wrote the song, which is ultimately about his family and how they provide a refuge with their love and support. The beautifully flowing melody offers feelings of comfort and well-being as well as an exceptional piece of music - I really like this one! Hance's arrangement of Stephen Foster's classic, "Oh, Susanna," gives the song a thoughtful contemporary make-over that makes it sound brand-new. "Streams" is bright and lively - happy times watching the water flowing over rocks and skipping stones. "Rippling Water" is much calmer and more serene - perhaps a gentle breeze over the surface of a pond or a sunset over the ocean - very peaceful. "After the Rain" expresses the feeling of going outside after it has rained when everything smells fresh and sparkling. I'm not sure what the title "Rising Up From the Valley" refers to, but the piece is dreamy and a lovely musical expression of tranquility. "Strolling" picks up the tempo a bit to a relaxed but purposeful pace. The melody is happy and the unhurried rhythm keeps it moving forward - a great close for an exceptional album!

Nate Hance's music on Refuge is both calming and engaging as well as fun to listen to. The album is available from Nate's site, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify. Check it out!
June 7, 2022