Monday, January 22, 2024

Memories in January By James Michael Stevens


Memories in January


James Michael Stevens

Written by

Steve Sheppard


January for me, and I would imagine many others across the northern hemisphere, is a hard time to deal with, long dark nights, weeks without any sun and much more, it also seems such a long way until we reach those sun lit uplands of a tentative spring, however here James Michael Stevens has taken the subject of this month of torpor, and manifested something so very moving and heart felt on this his latest album, Memories in January.

One only has to listen to the delicate and soothing tones of the first track off the album to appreciate the month just that little more. When Roses in Winter are Blue is a pristine opening piece that radiates a certain warmth from the keys, and a certain energy of love from the tone and timbre of the performance.

We now find our next track and this is called Theme from Whisper Lake, I have many memories about waterways and lakes, some sad, some happy, but like water always moving onward, this presentation is simply idyllic, a perfect performance on piano by James, sees the artist play with a hat full of memories with such a kindly composition.

I must say that our next piece entitled Starlight Beams Across a Silver Sky, must surely one of the most beautiful and melodic pieces I have ever heard from the pianist. This could easily be a song like Misty was back in the day for Ella Fitzgerald; this arrangement brings a wonderful performance of a reflective moment in time with its careful build and progression and its tender, harmonious tones, and gentle wonderfully sweet coda.

On Cloud Ridge there is a real element of a vast vista, of an emotional location where feelings were most truly felt. The performance by James is utterly moving and very deeply touching. This album so far has been far deeper than any that have come before, and like this particular track incredibly emotionally stirring.

We now move to the mid-way section of the album as we reach the offering entitled When Wings Fly Away. The slow tempo has some nice minor chord changes within its composition that make it so attractive, and when the uplifting major chords flow, we are gifted something quite cathartic to behold and of course, to enjoy.

The water of life drifts across the banks of our lives, and as it settles so do we, in the calm caress of nature’s loving embrace. On Meditation at Mirror Lake we have a moment that seems to reflect my aforementioned statement perfectly. I have used many a beautiful lake to meditate by and gain some meaningful balance from, and music like this composition would have been perfect for those occasions.

Snow Petals is our next musical portrait; the repeating motif here was the perfect presentational style to use to illustrate the delicate nature of a snow fell petal. This calm and most innocent of arrangements drifts and floats with such ease, and one can honestly say it is one of the most fluent pieces off the release, whilst Ode to a Galician Twilight has a depth that and a shady duskiness all of its own, this flavoursome and almost cinematic manifestation is true memory palace of a composition.

Amazingly we arrive at the penultimate piece off the release and this wondrous creation is named Dreams Drift Away, the performance by the pianist here is twofold, one can feel a sense of an emotive farewell, a time past is perhaps releasing, whilst a blissful sense of a letting go can also be found, and at the bottom of this wonderful presentation we can find a little musical parcel wrapped up with but one word only written on the label, love.

The concluding song is called Memory of a Lullaby, this is a heart felt goodbye and a contemplative arrangement of great quality, and one must say at this point simply the best way with which to leave one of the most passionate and moving albums ever created by the artist.

Memories in January by James Michael Stevens is without a shadow of a doubt the artists best work thus far, it is also the hardest subject to write about, the month of January, but James has manifested 10 tracks that are reflective, emotive and incredibly absorbing, one can imagine that many who listen to this album will take solace and comfort from its most cathartic of journeys and simply float with some of the most heartfelt solo piano manifestations from the artist thus far.

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