Perhaps the most telling thing about Val Gardena's surprisingly good River of Stone is the survey thoughtfully included in the interior of the CD booklet. Promising to "put you on a mailing list geared towards the kind of music you enjoy," the mini-quiz goes on to ask you to check off those items which "you recently bought, or are planning to buy in the near future." The list includes herbal tea, gourmet coffee, cookware, and gardening products. Although Val Gardena's music is clearly geared towards those people whose largest daily crisis consists of not having enough shallots for their vinaigrette, and whose biggest dilemma is deciding whether to drive their SUV to Williams-Sonoma or to the Banana Republic, bandmembers Christopher James and Jeff Leonard have actually done a fairly good job at creating relaxing music with enough interesting elements to actually deserve a close listen. Granted, there is nothing in the synth pads, bass glissandos, and gentle saxophone lines that would rock the boat, but then again, sometimes a calm ride is all that you need. The melodies to the compositions are not as immediately catchy as, say, Shadowfax's, but they aren't wholly expected either. Neither are the arrangements overblown and pretentious, a common mistake of music of this ilk. Val Gardena's style is simple, but their attention to detail is high, resulting in background music of the highest order. Good for those days when all you want to think about is whether or not the wine is going to go with the cheese.
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AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre