At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree
Terry Lee Nichols
2016 / Heart Dance Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree is the debut album of pianist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Terry Lee Nichols, and what an amazing first effort it is! The seventeen original tracks are music for piano, keyboards and orchestra plus a few additional musicians. The closing track is an entity unto itself, but I’ll talk more about that later. With a very cinematic feeling to most of the music, the album is designed to tell the artist’s story in a non-linear way. There are very strong classical influences in the music, but it always seems to stay in the present or recent past. The music is melodic, expressive, often uplifting, sometimes very dramatic - much as experiences in life often are. The richness of the music can evoke visual images in a full spectrum of auditory colors, making it an ideal companion for some downtime when you can block everything out but the music. It also works well as background music, but I strongly recommend giving the album at least one play-through without distractions. Just be forewarned that the closing track will jar you right out of your reverie.
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree begins with the title track, a blissful daydream of a piece that features piano, acoustic guitar, harp, and orchestra - a wonderful beginning! “Only You” is a romantic slow dance with a graceful sway. Piano and lush strings express sweet emotions and tender moments. “Follow Me” is a favorite. Strings, flutes, piano and bells create a magical atmosphere that is both spritely and a bit mysterious. “Appassionato” is a “big” piece composed for piano and full orchestral - very symphonic. “Timekeeper” picks up the pace considerably, creating a rushed and pressured feeling - “I’m late!” - that runs through most of the piece, slowing down near the end. “Train to Dachau” begins with the sound of a train traveling down the tracks and then stopping. The music that follows is dark and mournful, as a visit to such a place would be. The piano is especially poignant on this track. “On My Way to See the Dancing Sisters Figg” turns joyful and exuberant with the combination of piano, strings and pennywhistle. “A Curious Life” is another favorite. It starts with pizzicato strings that set a tone of mystery. It evolves into a touching duet for piano and cello, with more strings added as the piece develops. The solo piano passages are (to me) the most effective as they seem to come directly from the heart. I also really like “Last Train Home” and its sense of movement and feeling of anticipation. This one hints at Yanni’s influence. The soothing and comforting “Lullaby” should take you off to Dreamland just before the nightmare of “Requiescat,” the closing track. This piece is a montage of speeches, new clips, and sound bites that deal with the epidemic of gun violence. It focuses especially on the incident in Idaho where a two-year-old shot and killed his mother in supermarket with her own gun. Some of the clips are voices of desperation, and they are very painful and unsettling to hear, as are the sounds of gunshots. While I applaud Terry Lee Nichols’ taking a stand and assembling such a powerful piece, it’s a shocker after his beautiful music.
At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree is an impressive debut! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.
September 7, 2016