In my overwhelmingly positive review of Peter Sterling’s 2018 collection Magic Kingdom, I quickly dispensed the obvious top of mind Disney references to understand each song as part of a mystical, transcendent journey originally inspired by the energy of the 2017 solar eclipse.
Since the veteran Sedona, AZ based harpist (a custom made Lyon and Healy electric Troubador) and multi-instrumentalist seems comfortable mentioning the presence of a muse in his official bio, I felt confident in writing: “The muse that has guided his remarkable path is surely smiling every time she hears Magic Kingdom, which lives up to its name by providing wondrous musical toos for self-reflection, relaxation, healing and soul transcendence.”
That’s the remarkable thing about muses – you can throw them unexpected curveballs, yet their ability to infuse artists with empowering musical magic never strays off course, even while influenced by unexpected outer events. This holds true once gain for Sterling on his latest album The Winding Way.
From the gentle, inviting melodic strains and soft atmospheric caress of the opening track – an all-important reminder that “Beauty Abounds” - through the lilting, lyrical and classically tinged search for “A Love That Lasts” (featuring the tender inter-twined flute of Richard Hardy), Sterling composed and produced the relaxing, beautifully understated 11 track collection during the time of the pandemic and lockdown.
Though the artist is always composing and doesn’t consciously latch onto a specific concept or theme when he’s creating the tracks for a new project, clearly the muse was guiding the process that led to an intimate though empowering universal reflection of the ups and downs, highs and lows, challenges and triumphs, joys and sorrows of the journey of life. The real magic of Peter’s music is that it seems channeled, swirling in the ether until he finds the moment to capture it and bless us with it by extension. The pause we had during the pandemic was a way for the musically empathetic to soul search and create music that prompts the same in whoever listens.
True to its title, the album reflects Peter’s belief that “our life is not a trek from point A to point B, but rather a meandering journey down The Winding Way, with many unexpected twists and turns along the path to the destination of our hopes and dreams. Like most of my albums, it’s a journey from start to finish. Different moods and feelings are evoked as you listen to the different compositions and the change of styles within them.
“What often happens, and especially with this record,” he adds, “as I was working on it and listening to it, sometimes it would make me cry. It would bring up feelings and emotions and bring tears to my eyes. It just touched me in such a deep place. I felt so much beauty and love within it. This is my way of connecting with the unique energy of my music, which I feel many others do as well. So when I have that experience, I know that others will as well.”
The mystical quality that has defined so much of Sterling’s recordings since his emergence into new age circles in the mid-90s is everywhere - the vibrant melodic tones of the soft-spoken angelic spirit immersion on “Clouds and Sky”; the soaring, lyrical flute and female voice tinged “Deep Drive” and “Calling All Angels,” which puts out a plea to the universe for supernatural help in difficult times and shares a hopeful, resonant response filled with hypnotic voices accompanied by graceful string stroking.
Then there are the “way” pieces. He describes the overall journey “Along The Way” with hints of classical inspiration via a haunting blend of high toned flute and the darker cello energies of Hans Christian. The more uplifting, whimsical nature of the flute/harp interaction of “Every Which Way” seems to impart the reality that we have choices that determine the shape of that journey. Before reminding us that no matter what we face, there is always a quiet place within to find courage and “Hope for Tomorrow,” Sterling also engages his muse in a bit of symbolic mythology sharing the deeply soulful mysteries of “The Noble Knight” and the colorful, whispered voice enhanced dance of “The Elvin Queen.”
Listen to The Winding Way here: Spotify – The Winding Way