Journey of Tears by Monica Williams
Album Review by Dyan Garris for New Age CD
“Journey of Tears“ is the first solo album by San Francisco based flutist, composer, performer, and music teacher, Monica Williams, but not her first album. And it’s not her first foray into New Age music.
With Wendy Loomis, she co-founded the Bay area flute/piano ensemble, Phoenix Rising. Phoenix Rising’s music is heard on SiriusXM and Soundscapes cable TV music channel (Music Choice), among others. They’ve also been nominated for various awards, including a Hollywood Music in Media Award.
Classically trained, Monica attended the Eastman School of Music. She became attracted to the Native American flute at a music convention in 2005 in San Diego. Since then she has gathered a collection of ninety — yes, ninety — flutes from different parts of the world, made from different materials such as silver, bamboo, and various woods.
A new addition to her collection is a hybrid flute head-joint extension called the “Zi Fi,” or “Zi Flute,” which with its special patented membrane (designed and patented by flautist and composer Giancarlo Parisi and manufactured and marketed by Briccialdi Flutes, Italy), transforms the sound of a traditional flute into one that sounds like a Dizi (Chinese bamboo flute). It’s an “East meets West” kind of a thing, and is highlighted on three tracks on “Journey of Tears.
Monica says, “Each flute has a different story to tell.” And they do, indeed. A total of fourteen of those flutes tell their stories quite beautifully on “Journey of Tears.” Along with those, guest artists on the album include fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer, of Heart Dance Records, and vocalist Alexa Nadramia.
“Journey of Tears” is ten tracks and fifty minutes of relaxation, and I do mean relaxation. Peaceful and inspiring, the emotional essence of healing shines through as well as the theme of a life’s journey filled with, well. . .life. Although the title “Journey of Tears” might imply otherwise, this is completely soul-soothing, uplifting, optimistic, and deeply spiritual throughout.
The album opens with the soulful, “Raining Tears.” Resplendent with thunder and rain, this speaks directly to the heart and is like a call, a beckoning, that invites us more deeply into the journey that leads to “Conversations Within,” which follows. This is upbeat, melodic, and flowing, with a nice tabla beat underneath and the guitar a lovely accompaniment. We should all have this kind of conversation with ourselves. It’s a favorite.
“New Horizons” is gentle and expressive, again with a nice beat, great guitar, and a haunting flute melody. Very pleasant. Track 4, “Unconditional Love,” is really pretty. Flowing, sensuous, and relaxing, the love pours out of this one and onto us. Beautiful.
There is so much to love in between with “On The Edge,” “Finding Peace,” and “Constant Change.” But I feel like the other significant standouts on “Journey of Tears,” are the mesmerizing, meditative, “Wandering” on track 8, “Love From A Distance,” following that, and closing with the absolutely spectacular, “The Great Beyond.”
“Wandering” is played on the Egyptian flute, which gives it a haunting air of mystery and intrigue. This is truly transportive. “Love at a Distance” is profoundly peaceful and emotionally heart-stirring. The flute goes it alone here with just a bit of shimmery texture underneath. The right amount of everything, this is super soulful and relaxing to the spirit. “The Great Beyond” brings in the outstanding, ethereal vocal of Alexa Nadramia. In combination with the guitar artistry of Darin Mahoney, the flute artistry of Sherry Finzer here on bass flute, along with the flute artistry of Monica Williams, this is an unforgettable song. And it’s the perfect ending to a gorgeous album as we sort of float out and into the great beyond. Exquisite bliss.
For all flute lovers, this is the quintessential flute experience.
Get it here (or any streaming platform): www.bayareaflutist.com