Favorite Icon, Full size
Album Review: Encounters of the Beautiful Kind
Rachel LaFond
Cover image of the album Encounters of the Beautiful Kind by Rachel LaFond
Encounters of the Beautiful Kind
Rachel LaFond
2018 / Rachel LaFond
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Encounters of the Beautiful Kind is the second album from pianist/composer Rachel LaFond, following her 2017 debut, Wandering Soul. Formerly from Washington State and the daughter of a prominent piano teacher, Rachel and her husband decided to sell their belongings and see the world. Those experiences were reflected in the music of Wandering Soul. After “wandering” for two years, the couple settled in New Zealand and the music on this new album explores the ups and downs of being a “stranger in a strange land.” Although the eleven original pieces were inspired by personal experiences and emotions, those feelings are universally-shared at various times in all of our lives even if the sources of those emotions are different.

Rachel LaFond started formal piano lessons at the age of five and was teaching lessons by the time she was eleven. As a teenager, she lived in Vienna and studied piano performance there before returning home to major in piano at the University of Washington. After university, she continued to teach and perform professionally, but her talent for composition was still hiding. Falling in love changed all of that, and the floodgates were opened, hopefully to never close!

Encounters of the Beautiful Kind begins with “Luminous,” a piece that starts out in a quietly reflective mood and gradually builds in intensity and passion, peaking and then becoming more subdued to the end - a great opener! “Your Beauty Calls Me” expresses a different kind of passion, again opening and closing softly and gently, becoming bigger and more intense in the middle. “Heart Full of Memories” seems to convey feelings of loneliness, possibly generated from the realization that friends and family are so far away - beautifully expressed and overflowing with emotion. “Love’s Labour’s Never Lost” has an almost plaintive beginning - soft and very introspective, played in the higher octaves of the piano. As the piece gradually moves down the keyboard, emotions intensify as the tempo and dynamics increase. Very gradually, the piece calms, feeling much more peaceful and resolved than at the beginning. “The Questions Your Heart Asks” seems to pour from the heart without the brain censoring or getting in the way. “Don’t Cry, Calvin” exudes a soothing and healing warmth that would make anyone feel better. This piece really feels like a loving hug and is my favorite on the album. I also really like “Shout to the Sun” and its joyful exuberance. Yes, I think we’re having fun now! The closing track, “A Knight’s Journey,” is strong and romantic with just a touch of mystery, telling a story without words that is both vivid and enchanting.

With her second solo piano release, Rachel LaFond removes any doubt that hers is a powerful new voice in contemporary music. Encounters of the Beautiful Kind is available from RachelLaFond.com, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Recommended!
June 6, 2018
This review has been tagged as:
Kathy's Favorites: 2018Kathy's Picks
More reviews of Rachel LaFond albums