Terry Lee Nichols
At Peace Beneath The Shade Of My Father's Tree
Going by the title of the album alone, one might be inclined to think this recording to be one of hymns, which it is not. “At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree” is a recording of expressive pieces by pianist and composer Terry Lee Nichols, with a theme that takes our life experiences at their word and our Spiritual experiences to be just what they are – deep and meaningful experiences. Terry does a great job of bringing to mind the essence of what it means to be at peace and to be connected to something greater than ourselves. The compositions are bright and expressive, and lots of beautiful orchestration surrounding the vibrant piano melodies can be found in this recording. While some of the pieces may have a certain “sense of urgency” about them, none of the songs feel in any way intrusive. The tracks on this album tell dynamic stories, each one a little different with something unique to say. Listening to “At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree” is like reading a collection of short stories that are part of an unrelated whole. A gallery of unique pieces of audio art.
“Timekeeper” is the first pick of my top three in this album. It's a reflective piece that conveys the wonder and mystery of a great creator; one who created what we call “time” itself. The composition of the piece is interesting in that the background pads and strings are very ambient in nature, cradling the strong and lush piano melody that sits inside of the music. The result is a regal and pronounced piano part combined with an awe inspiring musical background – truly breathtaking. The piece goes through several key changes before concluding on, musically speaking, the major sixth of the key. In other words, it does not resolve where it started, ending the piece on an interrogative note. This is highly appropriate for this track, as the ending seems to ask the listener even more questions than there were in the beginning of it prior to listening. This is probably my favorite track on the album.
I am a big fan of both trains and history as well, so the next track on my list was naturally “Train to Dachau.” Dachau was the first concentration camp opened up in Germany during the second war, and this piece of music expresses the sadness of the people who had experiences there. Beginning with the sound of a train arriving at the station, the track then opens up musically with a strong minor string and brass section. The chords seem to melt into the atmosphere, and as the piano enters we find ourselves looking inward. We contemplate all that has happened over the course of history and what our part in that is. But all is not lost! The progressions shift at about midway through. Strong major chord sections are interspersed into the piece to provide a feeling of hope and encouragement. When the original melody returns, it's almost as if it's “musically overpowered” by the reality the this terrible experience in our history and within ourselves will eventually come to an end.
“A Winter's Tale” begins with a haunting piano melody. It's light and elusive, and at the same time dark and enveloping. Graying skies and blowing snowflakes come to mind here. Throughout the piece there are brief moments where Terry interjects some major chord passages, as if to remind the listener that even in the midst of a winter storm there are moments of calm. At the conclusion of the piece, the strings and other instruments which have been so present throughout vanish, leaving only the piano and the original haunting theme that struck our attention from the beginning. A descending chromatic scale, all in it's lonesome, brings us to a cold and lonely musical finish.
“At Peace Beneath The Shade Of My Father's Tree” is a beautiful piece of work and a fine of example of Terry Lee Nichol's musicianship. The pieces are crafted well, and the recording itself is sound and well produced. The music leans toward engaged listening, although I feel that it would be appropriate in almost any scenario to play this album as background music as well. Strongly recommended, I'd encourage you to have a listen to this recording, and to listen with an open mind. If you do, I believe you'll find some unexpected surprises in your musical walk with Terry, and I know you'll find it to be well worth your while. Five stars.