Various Artists

Wind River Suite

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Ethereal, ponderous, natural, picturesque, wintry -- a perfect portrait of Wyoming. Barren yet alive, the grandeur of the Wyoming country merits its own definition of "beauty" as seen by those who simultaneously crave the challenge and the serenity of visiting the Wind River Mountain Range. Lex de Azevedo and guests Greg Hansen, Michael Dowdle, and Jon Schmidt paint the scene in grandiose detail. The album has a chiefly Western feel, a surprisingly accurate musical representation of the region. The frontier endorses escapism at its purest by offering the ultimate detour for body and mind, and the compilation captures this whisk away from normalcy. These songs are longer than usual -- only three are less than five minutes long, with three running between six and eight minutes. This might be suicide in pop culture, but that's just the point: The Wyoming back country is evidently detached from city culture. The collection offers horizons from atop the jagged ascent to Granite Peak; it shares glimpses from the icy Cirque of the Towers. De Azevedo's "Wolf Mountain" sparks a cool jazzy flame between coyote calls, and Jon Schmidt adds some reverent piano work on his two contributions. "Sacred Ground" was included on Schmidt's fifth studio album, To the Summit, while "Early Frost" remains exclusive to this compilation.

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