Review of “Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind”By Pam Asberry
Album review by Dyan Garris
This is the second album from Pam Asberry, solo pianist, and winner of “Best New Artist 2018” award from Enlightened Piano Radio. “Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind” is a soul-soothing twelve track “musical journey through the holiday season.”
This is a relaxing album, but also at the same time, it’s joyful, exuberant, and passionately played through and through. With her distinctive arrangements and sensitive, graceful piano playing, Pam perfectly captures the celebratory essence and true nature of the holiday season in this collection of “sacred and secular melodies,” spanning several centuries and originating from several different countries.
The album opens with “Gesù Bambino,” an Italian Christmas carol, whose original melody and lyrics of the chorus are derived from “O Come All Ye Faithful.” This is beautifully played, with a wonderful arrangement. It’s a perfect opening to the album.
Following is “Sing We Now of Christmas,” a traditional French carol. Equally well played with panache and excellently arranged, it’s got a dreamy, mesmerizing quality. Quite enjoyable.
In the holiday favorite, “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin, Pam has once again —as she did so impressively on her debut album, “Seashells In My Pocket” — brought forth the emotion to us through the music. Here we can literally feel and see the snowflakes falling softly around us. She has a real gift for painting a lush landscape with a fine sable brush of sonic soundscape. It’s a superb arrangement as well.
The album includes some other well recognized hymns and carols, such as “Away in a Manger,” “Bell Carol Medley” (Carol of the Bells), where Pam makes superb use of the ostinato, and my personal favorite, “Over the River and Through the Wood.” This is so upbeat and playful, I truly believed I was on my own way to grandfather’s (or grandmother’s) house for holiday dinner.
One piece where we can really feel the love shine through is “In the Bleak Midwinter,“ track 8. I really like the way she’s arranged and played this. It’s very gentle, uplifting to the soul on many levels, and not bleak at all. Very pretty, filled with love, and deeply moving.
There are so many other things to love here in “Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind,” such as the peaceful, lullaby quality of “Still, Still, Still,” and the celebratory and innocent feel of “He is Born.” And there is a perfect ending to this album with “Come Let Us Anew,” reminding us that life is an eternal circle and hope is always present, not just at Christmas or holiday time.
But what really stands out in this album are two things: Pam’s skillful arrangements and the stirring emotions evoked by the way she plays her instrument. If you’re one who dreads the holidays, or find yourself immersed in inexplicable melancholy, give this uplifting album a try. It’s sure to elevate anyone’s spirits, hearts, and minds, any time of the year.