Monday, June 26, 2023

Cranes in the Moonlight By James Filkins


Cranes in the Moonlight


James Filkins

Written by

Steve Sheppard


There was a time I played guitar, I used to make it sing to the day, create harmonics that floated on musical clouds, and ushered forth tones that allowed the dusk to drift into night, those days I miss, but I have become busy at other things, so until those days of retirement that hover on the horizon come, I will travel vicariously on the string vibrations of artists like James Filkins and his brilliant brand new album Cranes in the Moonlight.

If composition one is anything to go by that journey is going to be a very graceful one, as the following track proudly carries me away with smoothness unbound and an unchained cadence. Unfettered is a really good name for this song, as there is a lush symbiosis of major and minor here that creates a simple yet utter beauty.

Cranes in the Moonlight is our title header and its crisp melodic short form narrative pulls us to a scene where we can watch nature unfurl in all its glory, the presentation contains crane sounds and this interpretation gifts us musical imagery to enjoy a happy dance of this most graceful bird.

I have to say that this is a rare title, and a first as we now listen to When your Wife Travels to Italy, however this beautifully fluent composition is a track that indeed has a European motif to its manifestation, one that is so rich in tone and texture, the inclusion of Jess Townsend on violin and Alex Somov on accordion manifests a romantic energy that in turn brings forth a mysterious yet harmonious musical reality, one bathed in a little emotional yearning as well.

Earthbound is Filkins on home territory, with acoustic guitar in hand he creates a piece that literally walks us through the woods, whether they be long and deep or not, the performance here is up-tempo yet reflective and has a mood of an explorative nature about its creation.

Filkins like me, is very inspired by the beauty of nature, landscapes and locations, and on Good Harbor Bay we have a prime example of that inspiration, the added flute of Luis Vilca was a move of sheer genius as it added a whole new musical dimension to the track, with a slight jazzy global fusion of a composition being manifested, one that at times reminded me of the work of Ian Anderson and his Secret Language of Birds album from 2000.

To say this next offering would be artistic beyond belief would be using a very poor pun, especially when I tell you the tile is Van Gogh & Picasso: A conversation. However this is one of my personal favourites from the album as the interplay here by Filkins and his guitar create a juxtaposition of musical cleverness, as the guitar itself becomes both artists in a back and forth, perhaps over a coffee discussing the ideologies of surrealism over post impressionism perhaps, the performance here was wonderfully crafted and never have harmonics fitted so well into a musical conversation.

Poplars in the Wind is Filkins once again being at his most descriptive, the beauty of a guitar is that you can literally take it under a tree play, feeling the energy of the moment, this gentle solo structure is idyllic in that aspect and gratefully received.

Then came along a track that grabbed hold of my imagination and never left, this sublime moment of beauty is called Gray Sky Over Port Oneida, this pictorial delight was beautifully inter-woven by utilising a multi-instrumental approach, the solemnness of the overhanging greyness of the sky, and the empty beach is all there for us to enjoy a moment of solitude with.

As we move ever onwards we come across a piece called Brothers, we have here a wonderful mix of guitars and tone, a vibrational pastiche of crafted skill, one that moves us with a gentle hand into the following piece entitled Forgiveness, another expressive opus, where a soft and gentle aspect of sincerity can found with this most delicate of productions.

Our penultimate composition is entitled Life on the 45th Parallel, this is indeed an expression of Filkins location, so I just had to look it up, and it looks like I live on the 35th Parallel and closer to the equator. However this is one of the most charming and laid back tracks from the album, one could easily put your feet up to this with a hot coffee and enjoy the day unfurl.

The final gift from James Filkins is entitled Mercy Dropeth Like Rain,  here great calm and beauty can be found in abundance, the electric guitar joins the acoustic and creates magic in a final parting gift of great quality.

Cranes in the Moonlight by James Filkins has energized me into picking up my guitars once again, they can be a cooling comfort on the balcony during our extremely hot summers. Here for the listener, what Filkins does so well is to take them to each moment, each location, and each natural landscape, leave them for a while and move then once more onward. This album is truly a must have for anyone that adores truly good instrumental music with a view; this is indeed top stuff.

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