Nancy Shoop-Wu is a composer and violinist originally from Connecticut who resides in Hawaii. As a member of the Honolulu Symphony she has shared the stage with many notable Hawaiian musicians, as well as superstars such as Yo-Yo Ma and Bela Fleck. Rainbow Road is Nancy’s second release and first full-length album, having previously released a debut EP titled Beautiful Mana’o. Comprised of twelve compositions spanning forty-nine minutes, Nancy combines both classical and contemporary musical styles while additionally drawing inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. Joining her throughout are several guest musicians, of which include Derek Nakamoto on acoustic piano and keyboards, both Jan O’Sullivan and Jeff Peterson on Hawaiian slack key guitar, Dean Taba on acoustic bass, Garin Poliahu on drums, Satnam Ramgotra on frame drum, and Holo’ua Stender on Ipu drum.

The album opens with the title track, “Rainbow Road”, on which solo piano introduces a gentle ensemble of acoustic bass and Hawaiian slack key guitar led by Nancy’s beautiful violin. She plays a tenderly warm melody evocative of the soft radiance of a rising sun. “Pulelehua (Mountain Butterfly)” follows next, an especially lovely composition that conveys the tranquil essence of the Pacific Ocean along with surrounding greenery and colorful blossoms. Distinguished by graceful piano and violin, the piece flows along in a gently swaying motion, recalling that of a small boat sailing out at sea. The fourth track, “Sunrise Over Haleiwa”, is another notable highlight beginning with a repeating piano motif, as Nancy’s gently soulful violin soars above an earthy accompaniment of drums. The seventh track, “Walmanalo”, is likewise rhythmic and moderately-paced, boasting a joyfully spirited violin melody accompanied by an ensemble of piano, cymbals and drums. Nancy lends her own vocals to the eighth track, “Carry Me Home”, on which she sings a lyrically heartfelt and down-to-earth melody in a tone that’s sweet and simple.

Included on the album are three bonus tracks taken from Nancy’s previous debut EP. The first of these is the ninth track on the album, “Beautiful Mana’o”, which includes both Ipu and frame drums that add a subtle tribal touch. On the eleventh track, “Ma’Noa Rain”, acoustic guitar comes to the forefront in tandem with an impassioned violin melody that’s additionally graced by delicate brushes of piano.

Conveying a warmly heart-centric vibe, Nancy gently serenades her listeners throughout with her soothing yet passionate violin melodies, as she plays with an ease of grace and authenticity of spirit. The varying ensemble of instruments are nicely spaced and easy to individually discern from one another, mostly conveying a consistent mood without much stylistic divergence among the compositions. In fact, one could easily imagine hearing these elegantly uplifting pieces playing at a beautifully decorated, leisurely outdoor café or retreat. A delightfully positive, peaceful listening experience overall, Rainbow Road unfolds like a welcome invitation to embark along a pathway illuminated by dreams, hopes and promises! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Nancy Shoop-WuAmazon, iTunes, CD Baby, Google Play

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