Since releasing her debut Seashells in my Pocket in 2017, Pam Asberry has been on an extraordinary, emotionally impactful roll that includes many awards and chart accolades from all the major new age and solo piano oriented outlets – including One World Music Radio, Solopiano.com, Enlightened Piano Radio and Zone Music Reporter.
Beyond her beautiful compositions and ability to artfully capture so many moods on the multitude of recordings she’s released since, the most amazing aspect of Pam’s success is that she didn’t start her journey as a composer until, as she says, “very late in life,” when she was 57 years old. It’s incredibly humbling to hear an artist so prolific, keenly gifted and musically insightful about the human condition and spiritual world admit that she once staunchly believed she wasn’t capable of creating music of her own.
Fortunately for every fan of her growing discography, those doubts are long past and five years on, all Pam wants to do is use music to express her unique voice, using the full range of orchestral sound that the modern piano has to offer. She does this exquisitely on her eighth full length album Unraveling, creating an extraordinary journey that reflects all of the emotional upheaval, the highs, lows, heavy challenges and wondrous discoveries and breakthroughs she experienced during the pandemic.
Over the past few years, artists in many genres have created these musical silver linings – grand, sweeping works responding to this difficult time that would never have existed in a world not laid low by COVID. Pam’s is among the most powerful because its 11 tracks are raw, vulnerable and make the listener feel he/she is right there in each precise moment and feeling Pam is referencing along the way.
From the haunting starkness and balance of heavy chords and hypnotic melody of “Storm Clouds Gather” through the empowering, dramatic breakthroughs of the multi-movement “Metamorphosis” (where the darkness gives way to shards of light and the wonderful things that can happen from deep change), Pam is baring her soul like never before. She takes us from the moment she first heard about the virus to the place where she felt like the collective we were coming upon “the new normal”- the same on the inside yet somehow profoundly changed.
“I chose the title ‘Unraveling’ because that word has a double meaning,” Pam says. “It can refer to both coming apart, like when the yarn of a sweater unravels, and putting together, like when a detective unravels a mystery. That’s COVID, in a nutshell! I believe that the album is an honest portrayal of my experiences navigating through the pandemic. I managed to stay healthy, but it was difficult being separated from family and friends. Professionally, it was devastating that several concerts and a recording session booked in 2020 were canceled, but good things happened as well – like the opportunity for me, a church musician, to create the hymn album Amazing Grace based on arrangements I created for parishioners attending online to hear.
The inspiration for Unraveling presents interesting issues related to Pam’s career trajectory. It has been suggested that some of the tracks veer too far “off genre.” She doesn’t completely agree with that, but is okay with some believing that. That’s because the goal is to share her personal feelings through piano composition – and reach the people these pieces are meant to touch. She boldly admits, “I’m not trying to write for a specific audience or get placements on Spotify editorial playlists. I’m simply trying to write the best music that I am capable of. I hope that listeners will find the music both relatable and inspirational.”
Those who hear this intensely personal yet universal expression will definitely relate and find connective expression on these incredible pieces. Pam kindly created liner notes which help illuminate the source of each song, but even those simply streaming and without her eloquent words as a guide will intuitively know where she’s coming from. Somehow, even when she felt the world was unraveling in the negative way, on the reflective, hypnotic title track, she found glimpses of soul movement where somehow, some way a sense of hope would prevail. Her poetic titles offer a road map, with the lighthearted, lyrical “Bluebird” reminding us that other parts of nature were humming right along and “Dark Places” being the sorrowful all too human counterpoint – where as she says, “the days seemed to blend into each other, time lost its value and my spirits sank quite low.”
Complementing the very universal expressions on Unraveling like “Goodbye Again” and “Labyrinth” (a classical tinged take on all the conflicting information about prevention and treatment) are the tunes that form the much more personal emotional centerpiece of the collection. The first is “Tattered Lace,” a pensive yet comforting reflection on intergenerational connections after she found antique lace handmade by her grandmother and great grandmother.
The most powerful of all is “This Time With You,” Pam’s gentle showcase of gratitude about quarantine giving her more time to spend with her youngest son – and the simple pleasures that even life’s most fraught moments can lead to.
In her notes on the closing song “Metamorphosis,” Pam writes, “I am determined to remember the lessons I have learned during these challenging times and to emerge into the days ahead with new insights, beauty, and power.” That should inspire gratitude in us listeners, whom she will gift with music arising from these revelations in the years to come.
Listen to Unraveling here: https://open.spotify.com/album/7F7uP8EoAUi5iLYhtTQrc2