Many recordings have a consistent theme or a story to tell, but Zola Van’s debut is the first I’ve encountered that tells the story of a back-packing trip. River to River Trail: The Hike
describes the artist’s feelings and experiences while walking the trail in Southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest. The music has been well-received by music lovers, but Zola Van has also received much recognition from The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and The National Forest Service. Articles about Van and her music have appeared recently in “The American Hiker” and “Outdoor Illinois”.
The CD consists of eleven original piano solos and one vocal piece at the end. The selections are as varied as the elements in nature and the moods that they evoke. With a music degree from Southern Illinois University and a background of teaching music, the depth of Zola’s training and understanding of music makes this a standout debut. Classical in scope and structure, the pieces are highly personal and expertly played. All of the songs are strong and evocative, but I’ll tell you about a few of my favorites. The opening track, “Steps: Battery Rock to Rock Creek” is light and excited about the prospect of starting the hike - it seems itchy to get going and happy to the core. “Broken Wing at Lusk Creek” describes finding a butterfly with a broken wing and the sadness it brings - slow, flowing, with a gentle rubato - this is a gorgeous piece. “Rain at Ghost Dance Canyon Trail: Dixon Springs” is my favorite cut. It feels almost Celtic, but is in no way derivative of that over-used style. Zola gives the sounds of the rain falling on rock as well as the leaves and wildflowers around her a sparkling and refreshing feel - this is a truly outstanding piece! “Trail Magic at Rocky Comfort” is a joyous and anthemic piece, full of fun and excitement. The only piece that doesn’t work for me is the closing vocal - it just doesn’t fit and feels forced. Otherwise, this is a strong and cohesive album, and I’m really looking forward to hearing more of Zola Van’s music.
is available from Amazon.com and zolavan.com
as well as many outlets listed on her website.