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Album Review: Relax
Shirley Cason
Cover image of the album Relax by Shirley Cason
Relax
Shirley Cason
2020 / Peaceful World Music
31 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
I started reviewing Shirley Cason’s music back in 1999 when she released her first album, Forever in Bloom, and reviewed several more of her albums after that. I hadn’t heard from Shirley in quite a few years, so it was a happy surprise to hear that she had a new album out. The album is Relax, a collection of six original and three cover instrumentals that showcase the music that Cason turns to to help her stay relaxed during these stressful and trying times. Most of the nine tracks are piano-based with added keyboard instrumentation. With a focus on soothing and calming the mind and soul, the music isn’t showy or virtuosic, but it obviously comes from a loving heart that truly wants to ease some of the difficulties of our time with beautiful music. In addition to the music, Shirley has made several videos that give the lyrics as well as photos that tell a more complete story of the music. (All of the tracks on the album are instrumentals, but Shirley often writes lyrics for people to read while they are listening to the music, as she did here.)

Relax begins with the title track, a gently soothing bit of piano tranquility that wraps the listener in warmth and grace. “Missing You” is much more melancholy, feeling the loss of someone dear. The piano carries the heartfelt melody with accompanying strings in the background. Singer/songwriter Janis Ian wanted to give something to the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. She wrote “Better Times Will Come” and then reached out to her musician friends to record their own versions. Cason recorded a piano-based arrangement with some delicate keyboard accompaniment and presents it on the album - a favorite! “Czardas” is a piece Shirley has enjoyed playing for most of her life. Composed in 1904 by Vittorio Monti, Cason’s poignant and reflective arrangement is for piano and strings. The melody and lyrics for “You and I” came to Shirley in a dream of someone close who had recently passed away. A tender love song, reading the lyrics while listening to this beautiful song gives it even more meaning - also a favorite. “Try To Remember” is a dreamy and nostalgic arrangement of the song from The Fantastics, a 1960 musical with words and music by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. In the liner notes, Shirley tells us that during the month of March 2020, while being in lockdown for COVID-19, she kept hearing this song in her heart. Delicate and hopeful, “Someday” looks ahead to the time when the pandemic will be behind us. “Drifting” was inspired by what Cason refers to as “COVID fatigue” when time just melted from one day into the next - haunting! “Stay the Coarse” brings out the “Vangelis” side of Cason and her keyboards with layers of sound and a variety of instrumentation, and brings the album to a quiet yet vibrant close.

It’s so good to hear from Shirley Cason again and to know that she is still creating her peaceful music! Relax is available from ShirleyCason.com, Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, and streaming sites such as Spotify.
August 18, 2020
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