Pieces of Forever by Laura Sullivan

Album Review by Dyan Garris, New Age CD, New Age Notes Radio, Zone Music Reporter (ZMR), “Spirit Seeker Magazine,” and “Retailing Insight Magazine

“A risk of the heart, ‘Pieces of Forever’ is a beautiful, gentle, vulnerable album, that will undoubtedly touch your heart and live there forever.” – Dyan Garris

Any musical artist knows that every time you write a piece of music and put it out there, you’re taking a risk. It’s a risk of the heart. And it’s a risk we take as composers and musicians that the listener will understand and connect in a deep way with what you’re trying to say from your heart. It’s a vulnerability all its own. Grammy® winner, Laura Sullivan’s new album, “Pieces of Forever” is like that. The 11-track instrumental album is directly from the heart and inspired by the lives of her late parents. It’s a loving tribute to them both, to life, to memories, and to love.

Laura’s mother was her first piano teacher and introduced her to classical piano. Her father played country guitar and harmonica and taught her country songs. The album is a piano-based “contemporary classical crossover,” intertwined with pieces of “Ambient Americana,” that will undoubtedly touch your heart and live there forever.

Joining Laura performing on piano on her album, “Pieces of Forever,” are Liz Hanks and Chloe Mendola (cello), Bryan Daste (pedal steel guitar), Gawain Mathews (guitar), Charles Butler (banjo), Kristin Weber (violin), Adam Burney (harmonica), and Caroline McCaskey (musical saw). The album was produced by Eric Sullivan.

To get a better picture of the roots of this album, first a little history on Laura:  Laura grew up on an 11 acre farm her family owned in Northern California. The main house was a rundown 100-year-old farmhouse with unreliable electricity and plumbing. The family put a lot of work into the house and farm, and it eventually became a good working ranch with poultry, cows, pigs, horses and friendly dogs and cats.

This, from the liner notes, should give you the full visual picture, better than I could ever say it:

“The eleven acres were a landscape to explore, filled with old broken-down cars, furniture, and ancient junk left behind from days long ago. A rusty clawfoot bathtub filled with muddy water sat in the front yard. Attached to it with duct tape was a hand-painted sign reading ‘Bird Bath.’”

So, there you have it. Now, let’s delve into this music.

The album opens with the somber, “A Darker Season.” This piece is about fires in Northern California, which are an ever-present danger, and one which Laura’s family had a brush with as well. Lovely, expressive piano by Laura is accompanied by Gawain Mathews’ slide guitar and Chloe Mendola’s deep cello. Be sure to watch the video which was filmed at the innovative Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay, California.

Following is “Rest Your Sorrow,” which is the 1st Movement of 3. Right here is where you begin to understand that the album isn’t about darkness or sorrow. Not at all. It’s about emerging from darkness into light. It’s about that shift.  It’s about precious moments in life that make up our “pieces of forever.” It’s about love. Piano, melodic and sensitively played, pedal steel guitar, and cello, all equally graceful and emotional, make this one of many beautiful pieces on the album that will tug at your heartstrings. Be sure to watch the video.

“The Farewell Fields” expresses a cycle of life, essentially. As her parents grew older and could no longer run the farm, it was sold. This song is Laura’s goodbye to those childhood fields, but also it is about the embrace of the new life that exists there now through the new owners. Life and love are eternal. In addition to piano, here Laura plays the harmonica her father gave her before he lost his memory to Alzheimer’s and passed away in 2020. The slide guitar by Gawain Mathews and the cello by Chloe Mendola are both excellent as well. Be sure to watch the video.

“Rest Your Sorrow, Movement 2” features Laura Sullivan on piano, Liz Hanks performing on cello, Bryan Daste on pedal steel guitar, Kristin Weber on violin, and Adam Burney on harmonica. This is a lovely continuation of Movement 1 and invites us to “rest our sorrow” in the knowledge that all life is a continuation.  Very pretty and moving.

Many people have lost loved ones to that hideous disease we know as Alzheimer’s. “The Long Goodbye” perfectly expresses the helplessness one undoubtedly feels watching your loved one slip away like this. The song is a sweet tribute to all those who have been lost to this disease and for all those who were lost in the Covid-19 pandemic as well. It’s a favorite on this album. In addition to Laura’s sensitively played piano, is the musical saw of Caroline McCaskey. The musical saw is actually a hand saw used as a musical instrument. The resulting effect is amazingly haunting and beautiful.

The title track, (Prelude), is again, emotionally evocative and features Laura on piano, Liz Hanks on cello, and Bryan Daste on pedal steel guitar. This piece honors the memories we carry in our hearts of those who have meant so much to us and have passed on.

I love the way Laura and producer Eric Sullivan have brilliantly ordered these tracks. “Rest Your Sorrow, Movement 3” is perfectly placed here and once again brings us through to the love and light that is life. This is gorgeous with its gently melodic and rhythmic piano, accompanying strings, and soft harmonica. I especially love the violin here, but all the instrumentation is wonderfully balanced and flowing.

“When We Were Happy” is an expressive, heartfelt piano solo written in honor of Laura’s parents and their life memories. Raw, emotional, gentle, and vulnerable. Enough said. The video contains actual footage of her parents and her family. Love lives on.

Plucky banjo and gentle harmonica intertwine perfectly and interestingly with Laura’s melodic piano on “Damaged Poetry.” The brief song is instrumental but has a beautiful poem that goes with it:

“Damaged Poetry” by Laura Sullivan

“we were so perfect
like a family of hand-painted
china dolls
a set of dominoes
in a house of three-year-olds
a frosted birthday cake
with hot sauce
a poem
that got rained on
and smudged

but some of the words were still clear
even though the rhyming was off
and it was poorly written
and highly damaged
it was still beautiful
in its own way”

I believe “Blue Tent Creek” is a loving memory of a creek that was on the family farm property where Laura grew up. This is a melodic and flowing piano solo intertwined with the gentle harmonica performance of Adam Burney. This is beautiful and nostalgic.

The album closes out with the tender continuation of the title track, “Pieces of Forever, Postlude.” Here again we have Laura’s piano, sensitively played, accompanied by Liz Hanks on cello, Bryan Daste on pedal steel guitar, and all perfectly produced by Eric Sullivan.  We don’t want it to end, but life and love never does, does it? What a beautiful tribute to lives well lived and memories that do, indeed, live on forever.

The album releases September 24, 2021. Pre-order here: https://amzn.to/3s0wA7H

Official artist website:

https://laurasullivanmusic.com/

Label: Sentient Spirit Records