A Southern Sun Joseph Akins 2013 / HeartSong Music 63’09”
"A Southern Sun" is the fifth solo album from pianist/composer Joseph Akins and the first of all new originals in more than four years. Akins wanted this collection of fourteen piano solos to reflect his southern roots more than his previous albums, and while "A Southern Sun" does just that, he by no means abandoned his jazz or new age stylings. Akins is an incredible pianist - one of the best, in my book - with a sunny and positive outlook on life, and those factors are even more apparent on this album than in his previous work. He is also a professor of recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University and holds advanced degrees in jazz piano and electronic music and a doctorate in education. I love this album from the first note to the last and expect it to be on my list of Favorites for 2013.
"A Southern Sun" begins with the title track, a warm, easy-going piece that sets the tone of the album. “Along Stones River” was inspired by a greenway along Stones River in Akins’ hometown in Tennessee, a place he visits often for peace of mind. The quiet energy of the first theme makes me think of a flowing river while the second theme has more of a walking pace and the feeling of letting go. “Waltz in the Rain” is a poignant and bittersweet waltz and one of my favorites. I can’t wait for the sheet music for this one! “Dancing On the Sea” is playful and carefree, bright and energetic. Although this is a solo piano album, one of Akins’ cats, Arwen, has a small part in the introduction of “An Inspiration.” The beautiful melody as well as the slow, graceful pace and slightly melancholy feeling make this another favorite. “Muscadine Wine,” named for a grapevine native to the South that produces a sweet wine, is a relaxed and dreamy jazz piece sure to elicit a sigh. “Sunshine” picks up the energy level with a peaceful yet swirling vitality that exudes pure joy. “Winter Is Coming” goes in the opposite direction although it is far from a downer - I really like the darker cast of this piece (another favorite!!!). “A Tennessee Morning” has the lazy warmth of a promising new day when the world is quiet and peaceful. I love “Theme from a Dream,” a melody that came to Akins in a dream. Slow, elegant and heartfelt, I’m so glad he didn’t forget it when he went to the piano! “Watertank Hill” is a wonderful closing to this incredible album. I’m not sure how to define southern solo piano, but this one certainly come close! Dedicated to the towering water tank near his boyhood home where he spent many hours playing and eating Granny Smith apples, this piece speaks to me of freedom and having fun. Great stuff!
Even though Joseph Akins has been one of my favorite pianist/composers for quite a few years, "A Southern Sun" exceeds my rather lofty expectations. Available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby, I give it my highest recommendation!