Whether focusing on emotional piano solos or surrounding a vast array of synth sounds with powerful jazz-rock ensembles, Michael Gettel has been a master of musical nature photography and spiritual travelogues. On previous albums San Juan Suite and Skywatching, he used both approaches to convey his great sense of awe at the beauty of Washington's San Juan Islands and the Southwest. On the Celtic-flavored The Journey North, Gettel floats across the Atlantic, tracing his Scottish ancestry by traveling up the coast of the British Isles. At each stop along the way, he draws upon new age, rock, pop, and classical influences to create multi-movement pieces that shift easily from graceful piano reflections into more percussive, guitar-driven statements that often include the harmonic wailing cries of Jerry O'Sullivan's uillean pipes. On "Hadrian's Wall," Gettel opens with a David Lanz-like interlude before Brian Theissen's strumming acoustic guitar and Sandin Wilson's moody fretless bass create a seductive bed upon which O'Sullivan echoes every one of Gettel's jumpy piano riffs. Gettel masterfully bridges the centuries between his ancestors and his life today (living near Seattle) on "Loch Ness (The Kelpie)," which adds to the happy-go-lucky piano melody of the original solo piano version (on 1998's reissue of San Juan Suite) with dense percussion and soaring pipes.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran