"Provence" is the fourth release from the German nouveau-flamenco group Luna Blanca. Named for an area in the south of France known for inspiring many artists of different genres and media, "Provence" is a musical tour of that region from a very sunny and optimistic point of view. The two primary musicians of the group are founders Richard Hecks (lead acoustic guitar) and Helmut Graebe (piano and organ); the duo also composed all of the music on this album. They are joined by Bino Dola on rhythm guitar and second lead guitar; Clemens Paskert on bass, percussion, and additional keyboards; and Uwe Gronau on organ and accordion. I know I am dating myself by saying so, but some of this album reminds me of a combination of Booker T. & the MGs and The Tijuana Brass, and by that I mean that the music is catchy, upbeat, and easily accessible to just about anyone with a pulse. Growing up, I had a real passion for the lively and sometimes poignant instrumentals that populated the Top 40 charts from time to time, and some of these songs take me right back to that simpler, more easy-going era. No complaints there!
Our tour of "Provence" begins with “Driving,” a sweet and relaxed piece for guitar, flute, and gentle percussion that sets the mood of the album. “Mistral” is one of my favorites. Named for a wind that blows in the area creating a special kind of light, the rhythm is effortless while Uwe Graebe stirs some excitement on the Hammond organ. “Creme Brulee” is all sweetness and romance with a gentle sway and beautiful guitar melody. “Rose” is another favorite. It begins as a piano solo and then the guitar and laid back percussion enter to the sound of an audience roaring its approval as the theme changes. There is more piano in this piece than in the previous tracks, and it’s a lovely way to express this tender ballad. I love “Cafe,” which opens with the sound of a cell phone and acoustic guitar playing in a crowd setting. After about a minute, the piece shifts gears, adding percussion and trumpets here and there. The infectious rhythm and warm melody get my toes tapping every time. I also like the breezy guitar in “Francoise.” Appropriately enough, the album closes with “Sunset,” which includes piano, guitar, and male vocals, ending our day with relaxing warmth.
"Provence" is a great accompaniment to just about any activity where an easy mood and catchy melodies and rhythms are appropriate. It’s also very enjoyable with focused listening. Recommended!