"Undercurrent" by Michele McLaughlin on iTunes

13 Songs

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5

14 Ratings

From MainlyPiano

KathyPiano7,

"Undercurrent" is the fifteenth solo piano release from Michele McLaughlin in as many years, and I am always re-amazed with each new album at how far she has come as a pianist and composer over the years. Her first few albums were recorded on a digital piano and although she still records at home, she now composes and records on a Fazioli F212 concert grand. What a difference and what an amazing piano! Mastered and engineered by Joe Bongiorno (Piano Haven Studio), the piano sound is rich, warm, and very expressive. The album was inspired by Plato’s quote: “Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle,” and the music is reflective of several of McLaughlin’s own battles as well as many wonderful moments from the past two years. The thirteen tracks vary in style and mood from serene and peaceful to joyful, turbulent, and pensive. Fellow pianists will be excited to learn that there is a companion songbook for this album available in hard copy or download, as individual pieces and as books with all thirteen songs.

"Undercurrent" begins with “11,000 Miles,” a buoyant and carefree piece inspired by the two-month, 11,000 mile concert tour McLaughlin did with Scott D. Davis in 2013. Light-hearted and quickly-flowing, it clearly expresses the joy of sharing music and the adventure of traveling to new places. Although much more subdued, “Living In Awe” conveys a different kind of joy. The first piece McLaughlin composed after moving to her mountainside home, it conveys her contentment and happiness in her new environment. “The Space Between” is one of my favorites. Quite a bit darker than the first few tracks, it reflects on the distance between Michele and her sister since moving about ten miles away after being neighbors for many years. Strong feelings of loss and sadness run through the piece, made dramatic with an active left hand at the lower end of the piano and a very poignant melody. I also really like the title track, which is also on the dark and powerful side, thinking about the battles everyone must face and deal with no matter how bright and sunny their lives appear to be. “Starstuff” returns to a much lighter mood, and was inspired by Carl Sagan’s quote “We are all made from starstuff.” Passages are played in the upper registers of the piano and sound to me like the twinkle of stars in a dark sky. “Never Give Up” is encouragement without words and a reminder that no matter how difficult times may seem, there is always beauty in life and light at the end of the tunnel. “Melody In Motion” is a lively minor key waltz that expresses how McLaughlin feels when she composes and the excitement when a new piece begins to emerge from her fingertips. “Stepping Stones” is a heartfelt, pensive piece about the paths we take in life based on the decisions we make. “Synesthesia” brings the album to a close with a piece composed on a rainy day on the road. Although lively and energetic, there is a moody cast to the piece that gives it a very soulful quality that I really like.

"Undercurrent" adds several new chapters to the autobiography that is Michele McLaughlin’s musical output. Deeply personal yet universal and very accessible, it brings together so much of life’s shared experience, reminding us how interconnected we all are. Recommended!

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus

MDiamond,

A great number of the instrumentalists I write about, and pianists in particular, tell of years of study, private lessons, music academies and conservatories, and the like. It’s not as often that I hear a pianist who has reached an extremely high level of proficiency with no formal training and being completely self-taught. However, Michele McLaughlin is one of them. In her words: “I just learned to play by listening to other musicians, and it wasn’t long before I was composing my own songs.” Now 15 albums later, Michele is a well-recognized artist in the new age solo piano world and has become an in-demand performer.

Speaking about being a prolific performer, the opening track, “11,000 Miles,” about her 30 shows in 26 states tour, over a period of two months is a perfect example. This song makes a wonderful opening piece for the album and totally captures the sense of fun and adventure that Michele described in the liner notes. It is lively and upbeat with a rolling-down-the-highway feel to it. This being the first song of Michele’s that I heard, I must say that my response was a big “wow!” The thought that kept coming up for me was: “I cant’ believe this person is self-taught!” Her dexterity is notable and I was quite impressed with the composition itself, and particularly with some of unusual and unexpected chord changes she used.

I greatly appreciated that Michele included liner notes, which gave a brief description of the inspiration behind each song. A good example was “Changing Skies.” That imagery came to life in my mind’s eye as I listened to the composition in peaceful reverie. Another remarkable aspect of Michele’s playing is emotional spectrum she is capable of revealing in her music from one piece to the next. A case in point was the effortless shift from the gentle warm-hearted “Full Of Love” to the more pensive and wistful “The Space Between,” which follows it.

Michele enters some deep and thoughtful emotional terrain on the album’s title track. This piece digs deep below the surface to uncover subterranean emotions, sometimes quite intense, as in the middle section. While it doesn’t reflect the sunny ambience of some of her other music, it truly highlights Michele’s talents as a composer and pianist. “Undercurrent” provides a rich and rewarding listening experience from a stellar artist who truly deserves all the acclaim she has been receiving. I have no doubt that Michele McLaughlin is someone we will be hearing more about as she builds a legacy with each successive release.

About Michele McLaughlin

A self-taught pianist and composer with a delicately facile style, new age keyboardist Michele McLaughlin played the instrument as a kindergartener. Inspired by a performance of George Winston's she saw at just eight years old, she applied herself to learn his tunes by ear and eventually began writing her own pieces. She released her first album, the tranquil Beginnings, in 2000. After positive feedback, she composed 16 songs in four months for her second release, Elysium. Over the next few years, she composed, performed, and self-released 2002's The Journey, 2003's A Change of Color, 2004's The Beginning of Forever, and the next year's After the Storm, before releasing Reflections 2000-2005: The Best of Michele McLaughlin. The collection was followed by 2006's Christmas Plain & Simple, and Dedication in 2007. Around this time, she committed to being a full-time musician and began performing and touring regularly. A Celtic Dream arrived in 2008, and 2010 saw Out of the Darkness and Christmas Plain & Simple II. Breathing in the Moment was released in 2012, followed by 2013's Waking the Muse. 2015's Undercurrent debuted at number five on the Billboard New Age Albums chart. ~ Marcy Donelson

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