Mary Martin Stockdale

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Timeless Review

by William Ruhlmann

Mary Martin Stockdale has all the credentials of a new age pianist: classically trained, she lives in rural Colorado and teaches at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School, in her spare time spinning out original piano instrumentals to which she gives titles like "Willows by the Stream" and "Smoke in the Valley," and to which she assigns "artistic impressions" in her liner notes, such as "Tender but strong, always bending, offering a place of refuge for animals, home, hardy, persevering" (that's "Willows by the Stream"). But in her press biography, she confesses to being introduced to Broadway show music by her parents and admits that she "also couldn't help but absorb the vibrations from the whole Sixties revolution which was reflected in the music of that time." Whatever ethereal and abstract imagery she may conjure to enable herself to compose and play her pieces, that exposure to Broadway and '60s pop comes through loud and clear. To listen, for example, to "Henry's Song," which the artist herself relates to "Children dealing with illness, the whole spectrum of parental love, hope for healing," is to hear echoes of Burt Bacharach here, Gerry & the Pacemakers' "Ferry Cross the Mersey" there. Usually, there isn't enough of a familiar melody to name a direct antecedent, but Stockdale has a taste for short melodic figures like the one that repeats all through "Runnin' Fence," melodic figures that a Paul McCartney or Richard Rodgers would extend into formal, and very catchy, tunes. In Stockdale's hands, such little melody fragments are placed within typical new age embroidery much of the time, but they're still there, giving her music an unusually memorable quality for the genre, and suggesting that someone needs to introduce her to a good lyricist.

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