We know from Titanic that film score soundtracks can sell a bundle, and it's clear from walking into any Borders store that books on tape are all the rage. But a soundtrack to a book? That's a clever one, and what better way for Narada to introduce its latest David Lanz-like master of melodic piano grace than have him create a "score" to a book that became a holiday season best-seller? Author Richard Paul Evans -- whose handful of modern holiday fiction books, including The Christmas Box, are perennial best-sellers -- gives Cardall some wonderful inspiration with his wistful, Bridges of Madison County-like story of two drifters looking for love's redemption and salvation. No doubt the book and CD will be packaged together in many places, but you certainly don't need to read the story to feel its emotion as the gifted pianist -- performing lush solo pieces amidst small string ensemble tunes -- creates his own interpretations. Perhaps it's more interesting to imagine the story based on the moods he creates. From the opening cello-enhanced strains of the first track, "Bethel," it's clear that Cardall's work has a folksy sensibility and a melancholy theme. But it's not all sad and weepy. Steven Sharp Nelson's gentle electric guitar lines dance behind the lively ivory runs of "Hunter's Heart," giving off a spirit of adventure. The collection closes with an appropriate tune for a story about a Presbyterian minister who goes astray; Cardall bases his conclusion on the basic chords of "Amazing Grace" but varies the melody enough so that it merits its own title, "Redeeming Love" (which is pretty much the same thing). Cardall shows that despite all the complications of modern times, nothing speaks to the heart more than a lovely piano melody.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran