An unfortunate aspect of being an artist is that it is often life's most painful experiences that bring out the best of their artistic expression. Emotional extremes make us all dig deeper into who we are, but most artistic personalities have the capability of going much deeper and feeling those emotional extremes even more intensely. It's an odd mixture of blessing and curse, but when the result is a creation that is superior to anything an artist has done before, it takes away some of the sting. Such a creation is Michele McLaughlin's "Out Of the Darkness." The thirteen tracks express the very personal and turbulent journey of the breakup of McLaughlin's marriage and subsequent divorce, seeking ways to quell the pain, trying to find a way to survive, and then emerging much stronger and happier than she thought possible. I've been on this journey a couple of times, myself, and everything about this music rings true - the roller coaster of emotions and then gradual healing. I deeply sympathize with what McLaughlin has experienced, but this album is stellar! It is her eleventh release to date, and twelve of the thirteen tracks are solo piano.
"Forsaken" begins the journey. Intense, sorrowful, and broken are the words that come to mind to describe this piece. It is also utterly beautiful. "The Descent" expresses despair, loneliness, and fear. Played in somewhat hushed tones, it is very inward-looking, trying to get past the feelings of grief and heartbreak. "Indignation" reaches the place where anger and resentment replace some of the hurt. "Forbearance" is the moment of acceptance - a turning point achieved. The music indicates strength returning and the knowledge that things really will be okay with time and healing. "So Long Mr. Selfish" is a great piece. It appears as a piano solo and then again at the end as an orchestrated bonus track. The piece was approached as a release of anger and became an over-the-top comic expression of "good riddance!" Both versions are wonderful! "Transformation" expresses the process of changing everything, dusting oneself off, and beginning again. Of course, there is still sadness and hurt, but there is also hope and looking forward again. "Finding Solace In Friends" is the most lighthearted piece in the group - musical sunshine! "New Light" conveys a rediscovered sense of optimism and inner peace. "In The Stillness of Peace" gracefully conveys a soothing inner calm. "Rejoice" is McLaughlin's "ultimate song of gratitude and celebration." Far from giddy, this is a celebration of a healed heart that has reached a point of moving on. The bonus version of "So Long Mr. Selfish" is triumphant and glorious - a musical kick in the pants!
I really appreciate Michele McLaughlin's courage in sharing what she has expressed in "Out of the Darkness" - in both the music and the poignant liner notes. I also need to mention the stunning artwork and album design by Matt Strieby - he does an amazing job! "Out of the Darkness" is Michele's best and strongest work to date. Very highly recommended!
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Kathy Parsons (kathypiano)
I have been a private piano teacher since 1981. I have been writing reviews for a long time, and have my own review and interview site, MainlyPiano.com. I teach piano in person and online, so now I can … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
From the liner notes: In early 2009 my marriage ended. At that moment, I was forced to let go of what I was comfortable with and move forward with my life in an unfamiliar direction. I felt lost and I couldn't imagine ever finding love or happiness again. I turned to my piano for solace and the music that emerged from within has become the story of my journey to healing. While the beginning of this album describes the suffering I endured, the tale being told is that of joy... my journey out of the darkness and into true happiness and peace. Enjoy.