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Album Review: Finding A Way To Be
Nathan Speir
Cover image of the album Finding A Way To Be by Nathan Speir
Finding A Way To Be
Nathan Speir
2020 / Neptic Music
60 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Finding A Way To Be is Nathan Speir’s sixth solo piano album and his thirteenth full-length recording as a solo artist (playing a variety of musical instruments); he released his first album in 2006. In contrast to Speir’s previous solo piano album, Quiet Wonder (2018), which was created and recorded in one night, Finding A Way To Be came into being over a period of several months “in order to capture a broader ‘personality’ in a solo piano album than the previous one.” This is the sixth album of Speir’s that I have reviewed, and the constants in his music are change, honesty and originality. Some of the thirteen tracks on Finding A Way To Be are more melodic, some are on the ambient/free-form side, and some feel more experimental. Speir calls it a “one-hour field trip” and says that by the time listeners reach the end, “I hope they felt like they got away, were touched, inspired, had fun, and now they have totally forgotten what they were ever thinking about before they started the first track.” I like that!

Finding A Way To Be begins with “One Way Train Away From Politics,” a musical expression of Speir’s feeling - “I do not find much satisfaction or edification in my life dwelling on politics be it government, local, religious, or even amidst family units. I do not think the ostrich approach is helpful burying my head in the sand, instead, I think keeping my mind and heart focused on what is eternal, what is going to make me a better person, what I can improve on myself is the way I want to go...it's a one way train away from politics.” A six-minute piece that seems to become more joyful and upbeat as it unfolds, it’s a fascinating opener. The title track is an exploration of how to focus on the things that really matter in life - “faith, family and love” - in the midst of “an ever demanding world of greed, politics and self righteous indulgence.” Deeply introspective, a variety of emotions are expressed within the music. As its title suggests, “See The Sky In The Water” is peaceful, serene and very beautiful - a favorite. “Gentle Waves” extends the quiet peacefulness with a soothing ebb and flow. “No Good Way Is Easy” is a reflection on life: “It’s beautiful, challenging… no one said it was going to be easy.” Again, deeply introspective and “in the moment,” it is one of the more colorful and expressive pieces on the album. “Waltz Of A Whale” brings some interesting images to mind! The piece itself is sometimes light and sometimes more majestic. Speir and his oldest daughter put together a charming video for this piece with sketches by his daughter. “Life On Purpose” ups the tempo and energy level for a happy, light-hearted piece. I always find peace of mind while working in the garden, so “Good Gardens To Keep” really resonates with me and is my favorite piece on the album. Melodic and gently flowing, I love the images that come to mind while listening to this one! “Lost In A Pleasant Place” is very minimal and open, expressing that wonderful state of mind when you lose yourself in something or some place that captures your imagination and takes you away. “Morning Birds Sing Again” is about the “chorus of beautiful North Carolina songbirds echoing through the woods” that greets Speir in his backyard in the mornings - a gorgeous close to the album!

Finding A Way To Be is available from www.NathanSpeir.com and iTunes as well as Spotify and other streaming sites.
June 24, 2020
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