Ron Schepper of Textura Reviews Love Walks Through Rain

“Artists deal with challenges of all kinds, but pianist Ann Sweeten’s have been extraordinary in that regard. As someone who’s battled cancer for over two decades and leukemia for six, she is both a warrior and survivor. The latter diagnosis arrived in 2017 during the writing of what would become her fourteenth album, 2019’s Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow. The recording that followed it in 2021, Change Is in the Wind, was created in the wake of her father’s passing. Her husband and dogs have helped her endure such difficulties, despite the fact that two of those beloved creatures, Remy and Jazzy, also passed away during the past two years.
In many ways, Love Walks Through Rain plays like a natural extension of Change Is in the Wind. Like it, the new album was engineered, mixed, and mastered by Tom Eaton, with production credited to him, Sweeten, and Will Ackerman. Many of the musicians on the earlier release re-appear, with Sweeten’s magnificent sounding Steinway Baby Grand, Model B augmented by the violin, cello, and English horn of Charlie Bisharat, Eugene Friesen, and Nancy Rumbel, respectively; Premik Russell-Tubbs (EWI, soprano saxophone), Eaton (bass), and Ackerman (guitar) also contribute.

Sweeten has a special gift for translating emotion into musical form. With yearning so affectingly intimated by its upward melodic trajectory, the opening “Valley Greene,” for example, seems to overflow with gratitude, the solo piano melodies here suggesting humble appreciation for the joys she’s experienced, the loves she’s enjoyed, and the pleasures life has brought (at album’s end, a chamber treatment of the piece appears, this one augmenting the keyboard with violin, cello, and English horn). When the vocal-like cry of Bisharat’s violin joins her piano on “Glimmer” and “The Hills of Riversong,” the ache of Sweeten’s material takes on an even greater poignancy. Reflecting the deep connection she shared with her dogs, the compositions expressly written in their memory, “The Shadow of You” and “Through Jasmine’s Eyes,” are informed by the love they gave.

In “Seirios,” Sweeten’s intricate keyboard embroidery is enhanced by the dialogue conducted between Friesen’s cello and Russell-Tubbs’s flute-like EWI. It’s his resonant soprano saxophone, however, that partners with her for the dream-like evocation “Love Walks Through Rain,” while Rumbel’s English horn helps bid fond farewell in “Red—Requiem for an Old Friend” to a majestic tree on Sweeten’s property that had to be removed. Near album’s end, Ackerman’s nylon string guitar blends beautifully with Russell-Tubbs’s soprano sax and Sweeten’s piano on “Out of the Fog.”

While her music is sometimes categorized as New Age, it transcends that designation for its intensity of emotion. Further to that, it possesses a formal elegance and eloquence that aligns it arguably more to chamber classical, even if her melodic compositions are song-like in length and structure. They’re often introspective, but they’re never hermetic; on the contrary, Sweeten excels at fashioning material that speaks with immediacy to listeners’ inner lives, no matter how different their experiences might be. The opening words of Keats’s Endymion (1818), “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” come to mind as I listen to Sweeten’s latest fifty-six-minute offering. The future can only be speculated upon, yet it’s easy to imagine listeners swooning to Love Walks Through Rain and its predecessors decades from now when they present music of such emotional authenticity.”


Ron Schepper – Textura