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Album Review: Hammer & Wire
Neil Patton
Cover image of the album Hammer & Wire by Neil Patton
Hammer & Wire
Neil Patton
2012 / Neil Patton
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Hammer & Wire is the second solo piano release from one of my local heroes, Neil Patton. Since his graduation (with honors) from the University of Oregon School of Music in 1994, Patton has been very active in the music community of Eugene, OR as a composer, teacher, Pastor of Worship Arts, performer, and support for many other musicians in a variety of capacities. With a very strong background in classical, rock, sacred, jazz, and pop music, Patton’s musical voice is accessible yet uniquely his own. His compositions are more complex than what most consider “typical” new age solo piano, and I would tend to call it contemporary classical - if it needs to be classified at all. Patton’s 2007 release, Impromptu, was more about improvisation while Hammer & Wire is more composed. The album was recorded on a Yamaha C7 with a custom hammer action at Villa Hildegan in Central Oregon. Owned by a master piano technician, the sound quality of this piano and the resulting recording is perfect in every way. Engineered and mastered by Michael Charles McDonald, we could have a brand new piano dream team here! The themes of the music are very personal, with many involving Patton’s faith and family, making this collection an autobiography of the past four years, told in music rather than words.

Hammer & Wire begins with “Country Road, Summer Rain,” which was inspired by a photo by Ansel Adams and a walk in the country near Patton’s home. Very relaxed and flowing, it conveys feelings of contemplation and inner peace - a wonderful beginning! The title song picks up the tempo a bit, celebrating this marvelous beast we call the piano and “the intimacy and energy of sound and emotion.” Joyful and dramatic, this is one of my favorites. I also really like “Between,” a gentle waltz that expresses the mixed emotions of watching children growing up and wondering what’s ahead for them. “Aerial Geometry” is a high-energy piece that expresses “an image of the magic of powerless flight.” This one really demonstrates Patton’s extraordinary playing chops! “Normandy” goes in a completely different direction. A tribute to those who lost their lives in battle on June 6, 1944, the deep emotions express loss and mourning in a very personal way. “Mercy” is a tender ballad that reflects on the sweetness of childhood innocence and trust. “Newport” is an easy-going improvisation about one of the lovely towns along the Oregon Coast. “Unity” is a heartfelt prayer for peace, healing, reconciliation, and unity. The structure of the piece is not complicated, but the emotions are clear and passionate - another favorite. “Into the Arms of God” is a quiet meditation “for all those who have said goodbye after the long journey together.” Peaceful and reassuring, it’s a beautiful closing to an outstanding album.

Hammer & Wire is an exceptional second release from Neil Patton! It is available from neilpatton.net, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
August 19, 2012
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Kathy's Favorites: 2012
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