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from Wind and Wire

Quiet Paths 2: Fragile Beauty Earthpassage (2002) Inspired by the natural beauty of the Northwest (Montana, specifically) where they live, the (mostly) acoustic duo of Matthew Lyon (harps, guitar, bamboo flute, pennywhistle, wind synthesizer, percussion, keyboards) and Christine Dickinson (piano, keyboards, recorders, vocals) have released another utterly charming and captivating album of serene lovely instrumental music. Once again ably (to say the least) assisted by immensely talented cellist Janet Haarvig, the pair have fashioned a recording of grace, beauty, and serenity. Listening to Quiet Paths 2: Fragile Beauty is like taking a long relaxing walk in the woods: you are left feeling refreshed and utterly at peace. I have no hesitation in making the following statement: Matthew and Christine are - to my ears at least - the equal of Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel. While I have only heard two of the former's recordings (the other being the delightful From Montana to the Sea), I can't recall ever being so instantly in love with two albums. Lyon and Dickinson are definitely talented from a technical standpoint, but in addition, their ability to compose and perform across a variety of tempos and moods (all the while retaining their characteristic "sound") cements my evaluative comparison to Tingstad and Rumbel. However, by comparing the two duos, I don't mean to infer they are similar in sound, except in the most basic sense. Unlike the English, Irish, and Appalachian influences heard in Tingstad and Rumbel's work, Lyon and Dickinson's compositions are rooted in a wholly contemporary (yet never urban or slick) "classic" new age music approach. However, unlike a lot of new age music in the mid to late '80s (which was also primarily acoustic with sparse electronic keyboards), the music of Lyon and Dickinson is never melancholic or what I would call minimal, as was the case back then. There are sixteen tracks on the album, and I wouldn't even attempt to pick one or two favorites. And I certainly can't detail all of them, either. There is the gentle but lively opening song, "Snow on Balsams," featuring lilting harp, warm cello, and rolling piano."Watching the stars" is one of the tracks that makes use of subtle synthesizer undertones, which wash gently under softly yet sprightly played harp. "A muse for Amy" showcases Christine's lovely wordless vocalizings, which open the track, and then are counterpointed by harp in a serene duet. Another song that displays the duo's amazingly restrained and tasteful blending of synth strings (these two musicians are the model for knowing just the right amount of dramatic texture to add) with piano, flute and harp is "Spring Valley, Montana," a sedate yet lush and beautiful number, to be sure. "Their city of sand," on the other hand, is a smile-enducing uptempo piece in which recorder and guitar dance around each other playfully. The closing track is "The road home" and the cello/guitar duet is truly nostalgic - it's like all your memories of home long ago rolled into a single song. Matthew, Christine and Janet (who deserves to be mentioned more than I have - kudos to you, Janet) have given the acoustic music lover a special gift with Quiet Paths 2: Fragile Beauty. Frankly, I didn't think it would be possible for them to top From Montana to the Sea. I loved that album so much right away that I called Matthew the night I got it to tell him so. Now that I'm a jaded music critic (ha!), I have restrained myself. I have saved all my gushing for the formal review. This recording is one of the finest in the new age music or new acoustic music genres in the last several years. Need I say it? It's highly recommended and, if you love peaceful beautiful music, consider this a must have! Bill Binkleman

From www.instrumentalmusic.com...

Living amidst the striking beauty of the great state of Montana, Earthpassage is composed primarily of three musicians: Christine Dickinson (piano, recorders, vocals), Matthew Lyon (multi-instrumentalist, producer) and Janet Haarvig (cello). Their goal is to create music that, as they put it, "sings the land" that they inhabit. The result is beautiful, relaxing and tranquil sounds that are first-rate in every aspect. The combination of piano, cello, celtic harp, violin and guitar make a wonderful tapestry of melodic, soothing music. Their most recent CD is entitled "From Montana to the Sea" and it is available directly from their web site as well as Amazon.com. Also available from their site are three other CD's of simply excellent music. Our favorite is "White Cloud, Big Sky" which has come to reside almost permanently in our CD player. This recording also features the playing of percussionist Doug Ruhman, hammer dulcimer player Katie Carter, and celtic fiddler Tom Robison on an excursion into the heart of the Big Sky Country.

from Wind and Wire

From the first strains of piano, synths, and cello on the opening cut "Headwaters", this release from Montana artists Matthew Lyon and Christine Dickinson knocked me out. It caught me completely off guard. I'm a fan of soft gentle music with a backdrop of nature sounds, to be sure. But I was whole unprepared for the depth of the emotion in this nature-inspired recording. From Montana to the Sea is filled with moments of genuine poignancy and heartfelt melodies. It compares quite favorably with artists like Tingstad and Rumbel, Tim Story (more from an emotional standpoint than his minimal composition style), and pianist George Maurer. Never descending into commercialism or the trappings of knock-off "new age music" (such as some - not all - of the recordings on North Sound), this is music so accomplished that it almost creates a new genre, since neither Tingstad/Rumbel nor Story uses nature sound effects in their music. Artfully combining acoustic instruments (piano, cello, flutes, and guitar) with tasteful synths and synth strings, Christine and Matthew paint musical tone poems of "hidden waters of the northwest." This is actually somewhat like a "light" (as in lighter in emotional feel) North of Niagara, the superlative recording by Canadians Danna and Clemént. It has that same rich texture, especially the synth strings playing off against (guest artist Janet Haarvig's) cello. The piano also is used to tremendous effect at times. The warmth and melodicism of this recording is what makes it stand out from the crowd. There are a lot of "pretty" music recordings out there, many of them ones that I would recommend, but few do it so well as From Montana to the Sea. This is one of the finest yet most accessible relaxation CDs I've ever heard. Owing to the richness of composition, from the serene "Holland Lake" to the sedate "Garden Wall" to the vague Celtic textures (courtesy of pennywhistle) of "The Curlew," every song on this recording unfolds like a vibrant tapestry. All three musicians have talent to burn (Janet on cello stands out like a beacon, but Matthew's tasteful synths are also outstanding), and the overall feeling I get from this album is that it was made with a lot of love and care. If you usually find "relaxation" music too sugary or not musically complex enough, I think you should give this CD a try. The graceful elegance of songs like "Wetlands" will, I think, enchant you. Without a doubt, this recording gets a huge thumbs up for lovers of nature and environmental releases. Some of the recorded sounds here are ultra-soothing. But, when all is said and done, it is the music that elevates from Montana to the Sea to the highest level of satisfaction. If you have ever walked in the woods, sat at the seashore, or listened to birds singing in the fading daylight, this CD will speak to you in the deepest and most soulful way. Almost heartrendingly beautiful, suffused with sincerity and integrity, this album is a gem. I plan on keeping it out for many weeks for when the pressures and stresses of my life overcome me and I need to retreat to a softer place filled with sunlight, warmth and peace. Highly recommended, especially for romanticists and idealists. Review by Bill Binkelman

 

 

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