Marshall Barnhouse is a pianist, composer and teacher who began his musical pursuits at the age of eight. By ten years of age he was already serving as a church pianist and has since performed at many venues covering all different genres of music. Comprised of fourteen solo piano compositions spanning sixty-two minutes in length, Awakened is Marshall’s sophomore album, which seemingly showcases a humble passion that is so eloquently expressed through his instrument.

The title piece, “Awakened”, opens in the higher registers with a brightly crystal-clear sound. A gently uplifting and rejuvenating piece, its sparkling quality can be likened to awakening in the morning to the sun’s rays softly pouring in through a window. One particular quality I immediately noticed about this composition, as well as throughout much of the album, is that the music generally treads along a somewhat unpredictable path, often boasting many subtle twists and turns within the same composition. “Invocation” follows next, likewise opening in the higher registers before gently moving into the lower registers. Marshall initially lends a soft, velvety touch to the keys, before extending a bit more force and dynamism at about the hallway mark. Conveying a somewhat hymnal feel within a more contemporary framework, “Searching for Home” ensues with a hint of nostalgia and tender touch of reverence, which brings to mind that of an old chapel in the countryside. Many of the compositions have an inspirational underpinning, which is further conveyed by some of the song titles. Among them is “The Promise”, the fifth track on the album, as well as one of my favorites. Hovering around the middle and lower registers throughout, Marshall delivers a perfectly understated melody that moves along in a seemingly mindful, unhurried manner. Other compositions that feel distinctly inspired by Marshall’s extensive background of performing in the church include “Light of the World” and “The Breath of Prayer”. Perhaps the most beautifully moving piece of all is the more classically-nuanced, aptly-titled thirteenth track, “Under the Stars”. Beginning in a delicately twirling, ballet-like fashion that floats among the higher registers, the composition bears a whimsical quality with a perfect touch of mystery throughout. Concluding the album is “All Is Well”, a slower-paced number that begins more brightly and airily, increasingly tending towards bolder strokes as it moves along its course.

Upon listening to this album in full and taking notes throughout, I then decided to read the liner notes to hopefully glean more details about the recording. The opening paragraph inside begins with “When I was five years old I felt a strong attraction to the piano after hearing good gospel pianists at the little country church my family attended.” Certainly, the timeless essence of, and connection to, that childhood experience has stayed with Marshall throughout his life and continues to imbue the compositions he creates today. Soulfully inspired and warmly heartfelt, these lovely arrangements are sure to soothe the listener with their gentle comfort and joy! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, Marshall Barnhouse

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