Nicholas Gunn

Through the Great Smoky Mountains

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This inventive, beautifully melodic composer, flutist, keyboardist, and producer has made nature appreciation a true art form. He launched his career a decade ago with Afternoon in Sedona and has recorded incredibly lush sonic interpretations of the Southwest and Grand Canyon since then. His national park itinerary moves east to Tennessee this time, where he's inspired once again to create an impressionistic travelogue of tribal rhythms, dreamy atmospheres, and hypnotic melodies, spiced with evocative nature sounds, all in the service of telling tales of the Great Smokies' ancestral past with an eye toward their future preservation (he's donating ten percent of the proceeds to the Natural History Association to help preserve the park's beauty). Good thing he provides a lush road map in the form of lovely photography and a liner-note explanation for each track, because the music sounds much like his Southwest tomes, with a little more musical mist (to reflect that atop the mountains) and a little less Native Americanisms. It's an enjoyable ride nonetheless, beginning with "Call of the Wild," dedicated to the rare red wolf and moving from soft and gentle to aggressive and primal, with Gunn weaving his flute through a forest of nature sounds and thick percussion. "The Highest Point" is illustrated with building musical drama as listeners are urged to climb up to Clingman's Dome and take a deep breath. The deeply reflective "Chieftain's Song" is an ode to the Scottish-Irish settlers of centuries past, while "The Place of Blue Smoke" combines gentle morning mist and a rumbling distant thunderstorm. The cricket-enhanced "Azalea Sunrise" is an ample showcase for the graceful work of guest guitarist John Bishoff. Gunn's journeys are the new age listener's joyful gain.

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