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My apologies in advance, as I have the presumption to speak on an art form about which I know even less than those I usually pontificate about.  But Zola Van sent us this cd and asked us just to give it a listen, and I liked it well enough that I'd like to put in a good, though very inexpert, word for it.

Ms Van's album (disc?) contains a series of solo piano pieces, the final one accompanied by a vocalist, structured around the theme of hiking in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois.  She opens with a light and lively number, Steps: Battery Rock to Rock Creek, that captures the high spirits a hiker must feel on setting out.  I particularly like this one.  Subsequent numbers are more introspective, summoning the sights she's seen along the trail, including an injured swallowtail butterfly, a barred owl, remains of an ancient Indian village, and a rare flower known as French's Shooting Star.  Some of these are quite lovely, though, perhaps appropriate to the notion of the hike, the energy level drops noticeably and a few are nearly elegiac.  Then towards the end she picks up steam again with "Trail Magic at Rocky Comfort" and "Mighty River: Tower Rock", which marks her achieving her goal, of reaching the Mississippi.  Just as the accomplishment must energize the hiker, so the music takes on a much rejuvenated quality.  She ends though with what I think is an unfortunate selection, "Trails Never End". the vocal piece which unnecessarily makes literal the emotions and thoughts she'd done such a good job of sharing through music alone on the rest of the disc.

On balance, despite these few quibbles, it is a very enjoyable collection.  From what I've found on the web Ms Van appears to be particularly popular in New Age and hiking crowds, and I shared the disc with some folks at work who listen to New Age music, and they really liked it.  You can download a few samples at Amazon for free and if you like what you hear, which I suspect many will, I recommend the album (but skip cut #12).


Grade: (B)


See also:

    -The Music of Zola Van
    -Zola Van (
    -MP3 Download : Rain at Ghost Dance Canyon Trail: Dixon Springs" Artist: Zola Van
    -REVIEW : of Pure Piano Panoramas by pianist/composer Jeff Bjorck (Zola Van)
    -PROFILE : Melodies in the Wind (LIZ PENSONEAU, Outdoor Illinois)
    -PROFILE : Musical inspiration from Mother Nature (Jennifer Wig, September 2000, Daily Egyptian)
    -REVIEW : of River to River (Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications)