"The Open Road"
After spending a substantial amount of time with this recording, I can say I have a connection to it that I don't have with any other disk in my collection. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with Heather Pierson's roots in the Midwest (which is where I'm from), but the sounds that she creates in her compositions are familiar to me in a way that I can't quite describe. From a purely mechanical perspective, I can tell you that some of her right hand "licks" are influenced by the country music genre, and I use many of the same types of ornaments in my own playing. Regional similarities? Very possibly. But "The Open Road" has a sound that stands alone, somewhere between the inspiration of Jim Brickman and the down-home flavors of old-time pianists like Floyd Cramer. It's really a brilliant combination. Favorites on the album would be tracks one, five, ten and eleven.
The opening track, "The Open Road," has a very old world and rustic sort of a feel. The chord changes are not traditional ones, which create an unpredictable and interesting ambiance throughout the piece. When I listen to it, I'm reminded of my own childhood and long walks I used to take to a graveyard that I lived next to. In the graveyard was an apple tree, and I'd pick the apples for my grandmother to cook with. For that reason, this piece has a very special place with me.
"Flight Of Fancy" begins very gently and melodically, and has the grace of a dove flying high in the sky. What makes this piece stand out however, is that it becomes gradually more intense as it unfolds. Heather changes the feel of the piece by moving from 3/4 time to 5/4 and really goes to town! Soon, a "groove" is established that really "rocks!" The piece then moves to an even time signature (4/4) and Heather belts out some powerful compound chords before returning to the original theme. Simply awesome.
Track ten, "Skipping Rocks at Shoal Creek," begins with a melody before sitting comfortably in a nice "pocket" of sound. That pocket is consistent enough to keep you engaged throughout the piece, even with some of the dissonant chords and chord progressions that happen later. About two thirds of the way through there's a really lovely I-VII-IV-III pattern that occurs, and to my ear, sounds reminiscent of some of the Vince Guaraldi progressions. The piece ends by making its way up the piano to the final "E," a very satisfying completion. This is a truly "groovy" composition.
"Sunflowers" is perhaps the warmest of the tracks on the album. At a nice mid-tempo and with a "feel good" sort of quality, this track will take you into a field of bright sunflowers on a sunny summer day. The balance between major and minor progressions works extremely well here. The sprinkling of minor chords in the center of the primarily major progressions accentuates the joyful quality of the tune. The bridge of the song is also comprised of minor chords, which only serve to bring out the major sections even more. It's a short, sweet, carefree song that will warm you from your inner core. I just loved this one.
"The Open Road" really does have a little something for everyone. There are a lot of catchy "hooks" interspersed throughout the album, and there's absolutely nothing depressing about the recording. I'm sure that's another reason I love it so--it resonates on a higher frequency than many of today's albums, which insist on dwelling in the world of minor. Without a doubt, this one stays at the top of my collection. I'd recommend it very highly to any audience, regardless of the taste or the background of the listener. Heather, extremely well done!
You can find Heather Pierson's "The Open Road" on Amazon, ITunes, and CDBaby, among many other popular websites. Visit Heather's website at www.heatherpierson.com for more information!