A national hammered dulcimer champion and acclaimed virtuoso, Joshua Messick knows how to create evocative musings with nothing more than the piano or harp-like sounds from an instrument native to Appalachia, but fairly prevalent in the Middle East, too. The contemporary music is instrumental throughout, which accentuates the overall theatrical sound. The inspiration behind the twelve tracks is related to Biblical events.
“Spoken Beginnings” speak with hammered dulcimer notes—not vocals. Specifically, the short song contains hammered dulcimer tones that are striking and almost piano-like. Though, the song is more of an introduction to the rest of the album, due to the sub-two minute running length. The same few lines are repeated and the hammered dulcimer echoes pure metallic tones of sparkling brilliance.
“The Entrance Of Sound” opens with an upbeat hammered dulcimer medley that incorporates various melodies with cascading and alternating crescendos. The fast-tempo is only punctuated by a few seconds of silence at a few different points in the song, which indicates another progression. The rests connote a symbolic meaning for taking a breath between lines. At any rate, the lighthearted dulcimer melody is lowered a bit near the end of the song, but the upbeat nature of the song is still inherent. The lower octave is a perfect change of pace throughout the song. The lack of vocals and additional instrumentation are not deleterious.
“The Sound Of Truth” begins with a few pensive, crystalline hammered dulcimer notes that are bright and raw, but relatively contemplative overall. The slowly-played hammered dulcimer creates an emotive melody that produces a new age ambiance ideal for pre-wedding music or any kind of relaxation. The music only picks up pace slightly mid-song, as the overall melody seems to wander into magical places of pleasant beauty.
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” opens with a few fast-played hammered dulcimer lines that each end on a sort of hammered-slide tone. The fast-played melody loses the slides, but the repetitive tones contain a few rests that seem to merge into a more solemn world of classical delight. The fast melody early on returns near the latter half of the song with a plethora of notes that resemble several pianos played at once.
“O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus” begins with a few flowing hammereds running most of the tonal range of the hammered dulcimer, as a kind of dreamy sequence. However, the sequence is quickly changed into single notes and a few multi-note hammereds that oscillate between slow and fast deliveries. Mid-song features a few muted, tight string sounds for a measure or two. The last part of the song features pensive playing that is fitting for an outro.
“The Sound Of Victory” opens with a moment of hammered-tapping sounds without the accompaniment of the strings. However, the hammered quickly finds the strings of the dulcimer, as an uptempo chorus of swiftly-played notes signify the fastest song on the album.
Joshua Messick’s latest release is rich with hammered dulcimer melodies, characterizations, and nuances that are inspired by Biblical events, but equally-enthralling for all who listen to its instrumental message. The hammered dulcimer is not very obtuse or too contemplative to instill confusion or boredom in the listeners. Instead, the harp-like sounds of the hammered dulcimer, which happens to resemble a Biblical musical instrument—the harp—is a perfect choice for the historical theme. The lack of vocals and additional instrumentation is not a negative, because the title of the album focuses on ‘solo’ hammered dulcimer. Moreover, the playing abilities are award-winning and boredom never arises from the mix. Fans of instrumental hammered dulcimer, folk music, Middle Eastern music, and harp sounds will find nothing wrong with this incredible release.
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)