After achieving much critical acclaim for his debut Real Music release, listeners might have been wondering if Eamonn Karran could reach such dizzy heights again with his eagerly anticipated follow-up album — Forgotten Road. Fans of the genre need not have worried; from the opening bars of this outstanding album, it is clear that Eamonn has not just matched the high standard set with Distant Sun, he has surpassed it in every way.
Forgotten Road features twelve original compositions from the magical hands of this Irish composer, with the album clocking in at just shy of an hour in duration.
A lot has happened for better and worse in Eamonn's life over the past year or two, and this is reflected in the compositions that feature on this masterpiece of an album. Eamonn lost his beloved mother during the recording process, the very lady who nurtured his interest in piano from the tender age of seven. Much happier news came with the arrival of Eamonn's first grandson, Olly, in August 2014. There are, perhaps not surprisingly, contrasting moods featuring on this album, and this certainly helps to keep the listener's attention throughout.
Both the opening and closing tracks capture the intrigue and sense of mystery the composer feels to this day with the paranormal and spiritual forces. The first track, “Fairy Dance” is quite upbeat and features solo piano. The opening electronic touches give the closing piece, “Fascination” a sense of mystery and intrigue, also illustrated by the atmospheric cover art of the album. The deliberate positioning of these two tracks to open and close the album give it its shape, and demonstrates the significance of the supernatural in Eamonn's life. The composer himself explains, "I am a big kid when it comes to all things paranormal and spiritual; I'm completely fascinated by it and always have been. There are legends of fairytales that say that a lone tree in a field must never be harmed as it belongs to the little people who dance around them. These tracks are dedicated to those stories that I often heard as a kid. There was one of these trees close to Tullagh Strand, and on holidays I would be a little creeped out passing it especially late in the evening, thinking I might come across some little people dancing!" Whilst the opening seconds could not be more different, the two compositions are both equally as beautiful and set the tone for the album.
Forgotten Road is a glorious, sentimental piece which reflects on events and journeys of the past — significant events of others, perhaps long forgotten, but immortalized forever through photographs and other documents. People can be taken away from us, but never the memories of them. Eamonn explains, "Whilst clearing out my mother's house after her passing, we came across many sentimental things that she and her sister, Jean, had kept. Upon reading many of the little notes and looking at the photos, it dawned on me how many adventures the most important people in my life had taken, and how at that moment I was probably the only person who knew the details of those forgotten paths. It was almost like the story of their life was being mapped out in front of me, and it was beautiful but also sad to see and read of the journeys they had taken, the people they met and how all this is now long forgotten. I'm glad this is the title track to my album as it represents so much about our life's path over the last number of years." With its Celtic opening hinting at the composer's roots, I am particularly fond of a section at around the 2:00 minute mark — a playful interlude. Happy memories here, I feel.
The third track of this wonderful album is entitled “Angel of Tullagh Strand”. It has a mysterious feel to its opening and again illustrates Eamonn's fascination of the unknown. The piano makes an appearance after 48 seconds, and the tone immediately softens. Best described as hauntingly beautiful with angelic voices singing wordless vocals, we are taken back to Eamonn's childhood. “Tullagh Bay is a beautiful beach in Donegal where I spent many childhood holidays. We had a mobile home there. It's a fantastic place, and I feel so blessed to have been able to spend so much time close to nature and the sea. My deep belief in angels has led me to believe that we are all guided though life, and places like this are part of what makes our spiritual journey so amazing," explains Eamonn.
“Beyond the Vale” is one of my three favourite tracks from the album. With subtle synthesizer embellishments, the melody here is simply gorgeous. Here, Eamonn is looking beyond life, and with his own brush with death some years ago, it is perhaps only natural that he might be pondering this. "Beyond what we know as our physical existence, is a mystery to many of us and something that I have begun to question over the last few years. The Vale actually means the Veil of life, that curtain which is removed once we awaken and realise what is beyond. This track is dedicated to my journey of discovering what happens to our soul after this life ends and why we travel a certain path to reach this destination." Such is the beauty of this track, the composer certainly creates the feeling that there is nothing to be feared about the unknown journey ahead of each and every one of us.
It is ironic that a near-fatal car accident was the turning-point in Eamonn's career. Along with his wife, Eamonn made the decision to focus on his music. This gamble has certainly paid dividends, and it is only really now that he has the opportunity to develop ideas from years ago and be as one with the piano and creative process. This opportunity to devote his life to the piano has led to the creation of some outstanding music, such as the track “Crest of Life” and this is not lost on Eamonn who says, "Through the many dark days, I have come to realise that there are also good times especially regarding my music. This is the crest of my life, a time when I can finally get the chance to be creative and do what I have longed to do for many years. If I had been told five years ago that I would be composing and releasing my own pieces though an incredible label such as Real Music, I would never ever have believed it. I spent many days sitting playing melodies and ideas for tunes but never had the courage or knowledge to record, so most of them remained in my own head until recently. Now it's like a tidal wave of creativeness — hence two albums so close together — but I think album three may be a quite a bit in the future!" This is another lovely track which I can listen to over and over again. It is timeless.
Few albums are as consistently beautiful as Forgotten Road, and it is with tracks such as “Kindred Souls” that the listener comes to realise what a natural talent Eamonn Karran is, and his ability to create melodic, heart-felt compositions time and time again. Never overly-complicated, it is the perfect tonic for relaxation.
“Hold My Hand” has an emotional story attached to it. It is about his mother's final days. The opening is mournful, but the piece develops into a very Celtic-sounding track suggesting the reminiscing of happy moments that will never be forgotten. Eamonn explains to the reader, "In October 2013, after taking ill, my mother suddenly passed away and this had a huge impact on what I was producing. This has been a dark time for us all and that is reflected in quite a few of my tracks on this album. I didn't intentionally mean for these tracks to seem dark or even depressing but as I don't read music everything I produce is affected by my emotions at that time. I hear certain phrases being spoken and this will stick with me as I compose, hence "Hold My Hand". This was something my mother said to my wife as she lay seriously ill in hospital, and was a very emotional moment for both my wife and myself as this was just before she was operated on and never recovered." Clearly written with his dear mother at the forefront of his mind, it is worthy of note that having listened to the album several times and with no knowledge of the origins of the tracks, this is also my own mother's favourite piece, and she feels a certain 'connection' with it. I am quite sure that Eamonn's late mother will be smiling with approval, as the beauty of this track is beyond words I can create.
“The Last Dance” is also influenced by the above events. A tender, slow opening opens like a delicate flower to reveal another sublime composition — always gentle and loving. This is a very reflective piece, and one cannot help but be moved by it.
“An Grianan”, as the Real Music notes on the cover state, sees the tempo and spirit liven as uilleann pipes, drums and synthesizer embellish the piece. This is certainly one on its own on this album. Quite avant-garde in fact! This is Eamonn at his most playful and creative. I suspect he had a lot of fun during the composition process for this piece. It is another track which showcases his love of things shrouded in mystery. "An Grianan” or Grianan of Aileach to give it it’s proper title is a mysterious ring fort close to where I live. It has been linked to Irish Clans and Druids throughout history. I always enjoy travelling there as the views are spectacular and its past is literally shouting from the stones. I have been intrigued by its history since I was a child and hope someday to be able to perform live in its grounds as it would make an incredible backdrop for a concert!" Consider the boat-trip across the Irish Sea booked, Eamonn, if this becomes reality.
My second favourite piece is “As the Foyle Gently Flows”. The word ‘exquisite’ immediately springs to mind, and this is sure to become a very popular choice with listeners. It is such a melodic piece, and a joy to listen to from start to finish. The unobtrusive guitar complements the piano perfectly. The track captures the beauty of the landmark it symbolically represents. In the words of Eamonn, “This track is named after the river that flows though my home town Derry City and beyond. It's an incredibly scenic river that I have been exploring since childhood. It's a beautiful place to spend time with my family and explore nature at its best.”
In an album full of stand-out tracks, it seems almost churlish to pick an outright favourite. However, if push came to shove, it would have to be “Ease My Mind.” This piece is of special significance to me as it was through accidentally discovering this track on YouTube before Eamonn's debut album was released, that I was introduced to this composer's music. From the opening bars, I was hooked. The beauty here lies in its simplicity. If the reader listens to just one track on this album to get a flavour of it, choose this one. Amazingly, it nearly never saw the light of day. "I was persuaded to release this track which was actually recorded a few years ago, and I'm so glad I did as it's now a favourite of mine. Like many of my early pieces, this was influenced by my weak state of mind after losing employment and not knowing which direction to turn. It was a cry for help to ease my state of panic and worry about the future. One of the reasons I think I turned away originally from this track is that it represented a bad time, but I now realise that these times were simply the foundations for what is happening now, and this piece is all part of that journey."
As is synonymous with all Real Music albums, the recording quality is top-notch throughout, and I love Stephen Emerson's cover photo. The album was recorded at River City Studios, in Derry City (Northern Ireland), and Eamonn used a Yamaha P105 piano and a Yamaha M06.
Real Music, a hugely respected label, might have thought they were taking a risk in signing Eamonn to their impressive roster of musicians, but this release from this incredible pianist not only justifies their bold decision, it propels the composer into the same league as other new-age greats such as George Winston and Kevin Kern. The Forgotten Road will not pass from memory. Take the journey, and its outstanding beauty will stay with the listener for many years to come.