Freeland Barbour,
Winter's Journey
(Macmeanmna, 2004)

Pianist and accordionist Freeland Barbour hails from Perthshire, and formerly played with the bands Silly Wizard and Wallochmor Ceilidh Band. Winter's Journey (described on the album sleeve as "a seasonal journey through northern lands") is an ambient collection of tunes composed by Barbour, exquisitely and consummately played on a Bosendorfer 275 Concert Grand piano. It's an immeasurably relaxing recording, a million miles away from the lively, rousing music of his band career.

As soon as I started to listen, memories of a long-forgotten recording came back to me -- George Winston's December, a collection of winter-inspired tunes, which I first heard about 20 years ago. Barbour's playing reminds me strongly of Winston's folk-piano style, and I find this a very pleasing musical connection. Barbour's compositions are understated, lyrical and possess an innate strength, creating an almost new-age/folk feel -- exactly as Winston's music did. Pieces such as "Lagavulin" (written in celebration of an Islay whisky) feature lush, ambient and orchestral effects. Elsewhere, the compositions are inspired by an Icelandic river, a Faroese sea stack and the landscapes of Norway. All Hallows and Candlemas are celebrated with fine and stirring compositions.

The grand piano, of course, sounds absolutely beautiful; Barbour clearly takes pleasure in performing his music on this magnificent instrument -- all the warmth and depth of tone is captured.

Winter's Journey isn't an album where you can single out particular compositions as highlights -- these 22 pieces move gracefully with a pleasing, unifying lyrical flow. This is exactly the sort of music I enjoy listening to when relaxing while concentrating on a hobby, or doing some research at home -- or when I'm doing nothing at all and simply want to focus my mind on music of immense beauty.

by Debbie Koritsas
8 October 2005