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Album Review: Sea to Shining Sea
Robin Spielberg
Cover image of the album Sea to Shining Sea by Robin Spielberg
Sea to Shining Sea
Robin Spielberg
2010 / playMountain Music / Spobs Music, Inc.
66 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Sea to Shining Sea: A Tapestry of American Music is the latest release from one of my very favorite artists, Robin Spielberg. The collection consists of twenty tracks - seventeen traditional American songs plus three Spielberg originals. With the exception of two solo tracks, Spielberg returned to working with an ensemble of musicians (including her daughter Valerie) who contributed their talents on a wide variety of instruments. In the spirit of the music, most of the arrangements are sweetly old-fashioned, conveying feelings of optimism, nostalgia, and hope. Spielberg often gives her guest artists the spotlight, allowing them to carry the melodies while she accompanies on piano. In the liner notes, Spielberg says, “There are songs on this recording I grew up singing, and there are songs on this recording your parents grew up singing.... From the Civil War to the Gold Rush to the great wave of immigration in the 1900’s, these songs chronicled journeys, hardships and love in music, as they discovered the beauty and the majesty of America.” Spielberg is obviously making a concerted and heartfelt effort to keep this music alive and fresh for the young people growing up now so that the songs will continue to be passed to future generations. This music is a very vital part of our American culture and history.

“Sweet Betsy From Pike” begins the album with a lovely piece that features Spielberg on piano, Nancy Rumbel on oboe and Catherine Bent on cello. “Home On the Range” is arranged for piano, guitar (Kate MacLeod), and oboe (Rumbel) and evokes feelings of peace and contentment. “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” is an old-fashioned waltz arranged for the ensemble and conjures up images of sunny picnics with live music coming from the bandstand. “My Grandfather’s Clock” introduces Spielberg’s daughter, Valerie, playing the “tick tock” of the clock on marimba. Piano and strings carry the rest of the tune. Valerie also appears on an utterly charming version of “Bicycle Built for Two” that features strings and piano. I love the piano/oboe/cello trio of “Danny Boy,” a song that always makes me feel nostalgic and a little sad. This arrangement is perfect! “America The Beautiful” is the first of the two piano solos, and what an elegant and passionate arrangement it is! A lot of people know the melody of “Aura Lee” as Elvis Presley’s hit, “Love Me Tender,” but the song goes back to the Civil War era. This version is a tender beauty and either set of lyrics will work! “In The Good Old Summertime” and “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad” are classic Americana - especially with the fiddle work by Kate MacLeod. Spielberg performed “The Water Is Wide” on her 2000 release Beautiful Dreamer as a piano solo, but this time the poignant melody is presented as an achingly beautiful duet for piano and cello - another favorite! “Oh Shenandoah” is the second piano solo, and also stands out as an emotionally powerful favorite. “Circle of Life” first appeared on 1999’s Mother and is arranged here for piano and cello - gorgeous! The closing track is another original, the lovely “Look to Tomorrow,” sung by Kate McLeod and accompanied by piano and cello with back-up vocals by Valerie and Brinkley Brown. What a warm and satisfying journey this album has been!

Sea To Shining Sea is available from robinspielberg.com, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
September 8, 2010
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Kathy's Favorites: 2010