Sunday, August 29, 2010

CD Review – Simple Beauty, by Bill Leslie

Simple Beauty

Picking a title for a film, book, CD, or any work of art can be a tricky thing because it can come back to bite the artist, especially in the form of critics who are chomping at the bit to turn pun-ready titles into dreadful displays of derision. Composer and musician Bill Leslie has picked one such title for his new CD, Simple Beauty, but thankfully, it can do no wrong because, although Leslie may not have intended it, it perfectly describes the quality of his latest recording.

Leslie was probably inspired by the beauty from the vantage point of his mountain retreat near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina’s Glade Valley, which gets its own musical tribute here. Still, the album title is an apt appraisal of the musical aesthetic sculpted by Leslie and his studio cohorts.

The CD is perfect from beginning to end. The music will wash over you and enrapture you with its lyrical and melodic beauty. Compositionally, many of the songs were inspired by some of Leslie’s favorite Celtic artists, including Nightnoise and Clannad. Even with the Celtic influence, though, the music has a very distinctive Americana feel to it.

Leslie is not only a brilliant composer, but an excellent musician as well. He plays Celtic whistles, acoustic guitar, bass, piano, and keyboards. Not surprisingly, the acoustic guitar dominates, especially since, judging by the artwork of the CD packaging, the acoustic guitar appears to be Leslie’s favorite instrument. Leslie is also joined by Bill Covington on grand piano, Brent Cotten on acoustic guitar, Leslie’s son Will on percussion, Jennifer Curtis on violin, Nancy Green on cello, and Linda Metz on flute. The result is music that is so hypnotically absorbing in its lush richness that it is easy to forget the technical prowess of the players.

This is a CD that most people should enjoy. It will touch their hearts just as it was touched by Bill Leslie’s heart, especially considering the musical expressions of personal aspects of his life, including his daughter and his new canine companion. It is warm, pleasant, and inviting. It is also enriching, inspiring, and uplifting. This is musical nourishment for the soul.

--Raj Manoharan

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