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Album Review: Open Arms
Scott Lawlor
Cover image of the album Open Arms by Scott Lawlor
Open Arms
Scott Lawlor
2019 / 601698 Records DK
70 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The nine tracks on Scott Lawlor’s Open Arms were improvised during August 2017 and although the album is listed as solo piano, there is a lot of alteration to the sound using reverb and/or electronic keyboards in addition to the piano. The music could have been recorded with a digital piano that has a lot of bells and whistles, but this isn’t a strictly acoustic solo piano album. That said, Scott Lawlor continues to be one of the most creative (and prolific!) musicians in the ambient genre both as a solo artist and as a collaborator. I was astonished to discover that he has 242 album titles available on Soundcloud! As has been true of most of Lawlor’s music that I’ve reviewed (this is the seventh album), the music on Open Arms tends to be dark and somber, but there is a very deep emotional quality in this music that is often very beautiful and always very expressive.

The album begins with “Open Arms, Part 1,” a very open and spare piece that begins in the bass of the piano and gradually works its way up the keyboard, elevating the mood of the music as it goes. “Dream of the Empath” opens with a shimmering sound that suggests the feeling of being in a dream state. Dark and mysterious - a little spooky, even! - the dream is intense and not very pleasant, but it has its own kind of beauty, gently resolving at the end. “Come Away With Me Into the Cool Twilight” is much more peaceful and really does make you feel the cool air and quiet stillness of an evening walk or ride. “Love’s Reverie,” a dark and gently melancholy 12-minute piece, leisurely unfolds while seeming to look within to explore a range of emotions that are relaxed but not really happy. Very delicate and minimalistic, “A Gentle Embrace” feels more optimistic and contented. The 13-minute “My Tranquil Refuge” is both peaceful and hypnotic, weaving ambient themes together to create a misty, atmospheric sound that is easy to get lost in. “Waltz With an Angel” is interesting because it isn’t in 3/4 time until the end. It is lighter and somewhat more rhythmic than the other tracks, but is still very much in the ambient genre. Similarly to Part 1, “Open Arms, Part 2” is very spare, darkly mysterious and possibly even mournful. It trails off at the end and closes the album somewhat unresolved.

Open Arms is available from Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp as well as other streaming sites.
July 2, 2019
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