DAVID M. EDWARDS, Still The River Flows
With the release of Still the River Flows, David M. Edwards’ majestic and expansive, multi-faceted debut album as a solo pianist, the veteran musician and composer opens a fresh door in his long, eclectic career – finding a beautiful and organic new musical flow after two impressive piano based ensemble recordings under the name Dave Edwards. Looking back, it’s as if his well-received collections Elusive Dreams (2011) and The Illusion of Time (2014) were powerful stepping stones towards the present moment, when the truest expression of his artistic identity can emerge unadorned.
Anyone who knows the Little Rock native’s biography could look at the new 14-track, 65-minute collection as the culmination of a fascinating lifetime of creative endeavors. Yet the reality is, Still the River Flows’ intimate and heartfelt, sometimes jubiliant, oft times introspective and even haunting compositions lay a meaningful and magical foundation for the launch of a whole new career.
Edwards’ journey to the gentle grace of new age piano has taken him through periods of jazz, rock n roll, and country, the turn towards today happening after a performance with the Dallas Symphony, when he met pianist Leon Fleischer. If you only peruse his life story up till then, you might think the most unique aspect to his evolution is how a guy whose popular 80’s-90’s country band Stallion opened for Garth Brooks and Chuck Berry could shift so powerfully.
Yet Edwards’ more inspirational story starts with him developing problems with the joints and tendons in his hands around the same time a promising opportunity for Stallion with Capitol Records broke down. He thought his piano playing days were over, but when Fleischer told him about his own battle with hand problems, Edwards was motivated to attempt a return to the keys. His journey back involved special exercises, massage and technique adjustments, and he began playing private events as a solo pianist in 2004.
While his first two albums (as Dave Edwards) found him exploring a multitude of musical influences – including compositions he had gathered from every aspect of his musical career – Still the River Flows feels more intimate, soulful and quietly visionary. He takes us on an almost mystical melodic journey exploring many moods and aspects of a single day, starting with the lively, joyful “Morning Song” (as intended, a thoughtful piece of musical sunshine to begin the day) and the radiant, quick fingered energy of “Summer Dance.”
Late morning (if we’re watching the ticking musical clock) finds Edwards in a more thoughtful, meditative state on “Still the River Flows,” “Just a Simple Song” and “For A Long, Long Time.” Those titles will help listeners find their own peace amidst a hectic day, contemplating the big picture of life while getting in touch with the inner sacred spaces. The pianist then offers an early afternoon pick me up with the free-flowing seemingly autobiographical nostalgic look at being “Nineteen in 69.”
As the day progresses, Edwards alternates dynamically between moody, nostalgic watercolors (the melancholy tinged “On a Cloudy Day,” the tender wind-down of “Evening Song” and the eloquent lament “Wistfully”) and spritely, romantically inclined pick me ups like “Take Me with You” and “I Remember That.” He closes with pieces that also embrace this kind of mood swinging coolness, following the bittersweet, image rich “Walking by The Shore” with “Won’t You Stay,” a thoughtful, reflective ballad lifted throughout by sparkling, optimistic high notes.
Here’s hoping the pianist will answer the question of that title affirmatively and gift us with many more albums like Still the River Flows in the future.