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Album Review: A Summer Dream
Shirley Cason
Cover image of the album A Summer Dream by Shirley Cason
A Summer Dream
Shirley Cason
2002 / Rainbow Lakes Recoreds
46 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
A Summer Dream” is quite different from Shirley Cason’s previous album of original material, “Forever in Bloom”. Cason’s sister, Carol, suffered from liver diseases, and this CD tells the story of the summer of 1998 when Carol’s illness became severe and took her life. Although there is no singing on the CD, Cason wrote lyrics for many of the songs and included them in the liner notes for listeners to look at as they listen, giving more insight into the meaning of the songs. Without the lyrics, though, the songs are very evocative and powerful, allowing the listener to attach his or her own experiences to them as shared emotions. Cason uses various synthesizer sounds and samples to convey her feelings very effectively. My only criticism of this very fine album is that I would love to hear a good acoustic piano instead of an electronic keyboard where the piano parts are. I know that this is often a matter of economics for indie artists, but, esthetically, a piano is still so much warmer and richer than the electronics.

A Summer Dream opens with Carol’s favorite song, “Springtime”, a bright and sunny tune, full of fun and joy. “Come Out and Play” shifts moods a bit, as a sister calls to her sleeping sibling to “hold my hand and say ‘let’s go’”. “The Calling” recalls Carol seeing her mother at the end of the bed, and calling her. The lyrics are from Carol’s perspective, not being able to understand what was happening, but looking forward to being free from the pain of her illness. The song is sad, but full of hope. “Summer of 98” would make a wonderful movie theme. Bittersweet and melancholy, the song is full of questions and a tangle of emotions that everyone has when life becomes especially difficult. “Lost” is much more abstract and heavy - again the weight of the swirling emotions and sense of impending loss is very powerful. “Last Walk” is perhaps the strongest piece (musically) in the collection - the mix of emotions being conveyed so successfully is amazing. “I Love You, I Do” is a simple love song - a reaching out before the inevitable comes. “Last Breath” is again abstract, conveying the sense of unreality that occurs when something devastating happens. Some of the sounds are distorted and “bent”, creating a surreal feeling. The tones are very dark and bleak, and a tremendous sense of loss comes through. “Mama” is again reaching out, this time for comfort and peace. “A Summer Dream” closes this most effective CD on a much lighter note - full of hope and looking forward, and even moreso of the healing that only time and closure can provide.

On a personal note, I lost my dad to cancer at about the same time Shirley lost her sister, and I found this album to be an amazing journey down a familiar path. I hope composing this music brought Cason some peace, as it will certainly be a comfort to others. It is available from amazon.com.
June 1, 2002
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