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Album Review: Unraveling
Pam Asberry
Cover image of the album Unraveling by Pam Asberry
Pam Asberry
2022 / Optimistic Flamingo
35 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Unraveling is the eighth full-length album from pianist/composer Pam Asberry, and the eleven original piano solos are an expression of her own experiences navigating through the coronavirus crisis. Not surprisingly, most of the music is melancholy and often quite dark, but the depth of emotion expressed in the music is cathartic - much like a deep conversation with a close friend. The album was recorded and mastered at Piano Haven Studio in Sedona on Joe Bongiorno's impeccable Shigeru Kawai concert grand piano, and the piano sound is gorgeous. Fellow pianists will be happy to know that a companion songbook with all eleven pieces is coming, too.

A longtime piano teacher with a private studio near Atlanta, Georgia, Pam started her classical training at the age of seven and completed a Master's Degree in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy. She released her first album, Seashells In My Pocket, in 2017, and once the floodgates opened, she has created and released eight albums and a number of singles in less than five years. Some of the singles have been orchestrated arrangements of piano solos on her albums, giving an interesting perspective to the music. Several of Pam's albums and singles have been nominated for a variety of awards, and, at least to my ears, I think each album gets better - and the first one was really good!

Unraveling begins with "Storm Clouds Gather," a very dark and ominous piece that expresses the sense of foreboding that came with earliest reports of a mysterious virus coming out of China. Both fear and despair seem to flow through this music, mirroring what we were all feeling at the time. The title track "conveys my thoughts when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and it felt as if the entire world was falling apart." The beautiful melody seems to be searching, sometimes wandering. While under lockdown, many people found the time to take care of long-neglected projects such as cleaning drawers and closets. "While sorting through a box of old papers and memorabilia, I found several pieces of antique lace handmade by my grandmother and my great-grandmother, filling me with a comforting awareness of connectivity with past generations." "Tattered Lace" tells the story of finding those precious pieces of lace and the warm feelings they brought. "Dark Places" expresses the lows most of us experienced as the pandemic worsened with no end in sight. While far from hopeless, the music gives a voice to many of the unanswerable questions we had early in the pandemic. "Labyrinth" describes the intricacy and confusion of trying to make sense of the conflicting information we all had to deal with regarding the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. I love the way it ends on a discordant note and trails off. "Polaris" is a lively celebration of finding our own "north stars" that we can depend on to help us find our way - a very bright spot amidst the darkness! "This Time With You" describes a different kind of "bright spot" in finding more time to spend with Pam's youngest son and becoming even closer to him than before the pandemic. Very tender and gentle, it's a heartwarming expression of a mother's love. "Metamorphosis" closes the album with the intention of moving forward changed rather than going back to the way it was before COVID-19 turned the whole world upside down. "Rather, I am determined to remember the lessons I have learned during these challenging times and to emerge into the days ahead with new insights, beauty, and power." A huge amount of extraordinary music has been created in the past two years, but this is a very personal story that I think everyone can relate to. It is beautifully done!

Unraveling is available from Amazon, Apple/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify.

March 22, 2022