https://annsweeten.com/product/love-walks-through-rain/Everyone understands why so many music consumers have switched to streaming. “Leasing” music from Spotify and Apple and having Pandora choose playlists for us is often more economical and convenient than purchasing an artist’s CDs and committing to the full experience. Ann Sweeten’s gloriously composed and performed album Love Walks Through Rain is a project that will make you wish we were back in the 90s, when the multi-faceted Steinway artist first started hitting the Top 5 on the NAR and ZMR radio charts – and creative packaging, art direction and liner notes were as much a part of the artists’ expression as the songs on the album.
Stated simply, Love Walks Through Rain is one of the most heartrending, emotionally hard hitting piano driven albums in years, showing us that, even amidst the shadows of melancholy and heartbreak that seem to be a necessary part of the journey, life is still very much worth living. An expansive showcase of her passions for new age, neoclassical, jazz, pop and film composing, the gloriously composed and performed collection artfully captures compelling personal moments in the artist’s life while inviting us to connect on a universal level with her profound sense of grief, colored and followed by gratitude for love that endures all things.
Because Ann put so much intricate thought and care and incredible talent for poetry into the packaging for Love Walks Through Rain, we’re only getting part of her multi-layered story – put more bluntly, cheating ourselves – if we simply listen to the sweet, gentle, sometimes reflective, often sweeping journey from the lyrical, soft spoken “Valley Greene” through a tender, cautious and subtly optimistic venture “Out of the Fog” and the heartwarming coda, a grand orchestral reprise of “Valley Greene” featuring the incomparable Charlie Bisharat’s soulful and sensitive violin.
While the cover itself features a lovely pastoral image of a misty forest behind trees in a field in the foreground – i.e. fairly standard new age imagery – opening the package, and then the beautifully illustrated booklet, reveals in words and pictures the fuller scope of her creative intentions. A suggestion: put on the softly sparkling, dreamlike “Glimmer” – the first of four songs featuring Bisharat’s caressing colors – and the reflective and wistful, classically tinged title track as you read about how perfectly Love Walks Through Rain describes this unique chapter of the pianist’s life. Look at the lovely image of sunlight through trees while you ingest the introductory words: “I have always said that our dogs were the bookmarks in the chapters of our lives, much as my music carries the joy and pain contained in those chapters.”
Ann also imparts in that introduction that she’s been battling cancer for over 20 years (her bio adding that she’s in her sixth year of fighting leukemia). That struggle alone would be worth an album of musical mood swings – but her focus is clearly on the enduring relationship with her two fur children, Jazzy and Remy, and the flood of emotions that came with their passings, ten months apart, in the last few years. In the booklet, Ann graces us with the full story. Jazzy was 14 and “her body just gave out on her, though her wonderful and willful spirit was there till the very end.” Remy was only eight, so his illness was much more of a shock; the hope she felt throughout what turned out to be Remy’s final months inspired “Glimmer” – which could be considered the emotional core of the project for the sense of optimism it imparts when we’re going through the most unimaginable of challenging life events.
Finally able to write a song about Jazzy after seven months, Ann poured it all out on “Through Jasmine’s Eyes,” an eloquent piece whose deeper shades of melancholy and touches of lighter hearted spirit emerge via Eugene Friesen’s cello and Nancy Rumbel’s English Horn. Her heartfelt essay explains the inspiration behind “The Hills of Riversong” and the sequence of composition. The most unusually titled piece is “Seiros,” which is a part of the Winter’s Circle constellation (expressed with the slightly tweaked title “The Winter’s Circle”) and known as the Dog Star because Seiros is believed to be Orion’s dog. Drawing on celestial ideas is perhaps her way of letting us know that though she misses her beloved dogs’ earthly presences, they are part of and have always belonged to the universe.
The true highlights of the booklet are the magnificent, deeply spiritual, love, laughter and even humor filled poems dedicated to Remy and Jazzy, accompanied by photos showcasing their majestic look and regal personalities. Feel free to listen to any of the other songs Ann has written as you read and absorb these wondrous works – which prove that sometimes instrumental music can’t express things like “One last dish of Haagen-Dazs,” “coups, quirks, tricks and antics” and “days of caressing, pastoral delight.”
My personal choices are “The Shadow of You,” the last piece Ann wrote before Remy’s transition; and “Red – Requiem for an Old Friend,” inspired by a Red Maple that stood in the yard of her and her husband’s home for 40 years before it had to be cut down. The massive tree lived for two centuries and its root ball weighed over 5000 lbs. Including this tune on an album reflecting her love for her canine companions is a way to connect them to the greater cycle of nature, of birth, life and death, that surrounds us.
While you don’t have to be a dog lover or have lost beloved pets to appreciate the magic of what Ann Sweeten has created on Love Walks Through Rain, having intimate knowledge of the bonds we have with our fur babies can make this a more empathic, cathartic experience. We learn from her extensive bio that Ann was a successful ballet dancer earlier in her life, gracing the stage in Swan Lake, Les Symphides and Sleeping Beauty. We can feel that kind of exquisite and free-flowing movement in her music here, which sweeps across our souls at every turn, reminds us that life is a dance that’s well worth the searing pain of loss to have experienced the greater joys it offers in abundance.
For more information, to hear a few samples and to order Love Walks Through Rain, please visit: https://annsweeten.com/product/love-walks-through-rain/