Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Since 1995 Cross Rhythms has been seemingly shouting the name Viola Grafstrom from the rooftops (okay, so we II admit to weird habits) and anyone who has heard the Swedish lady s astonishingly flexible, delicately nuanced voice will know why we've waxed so lyrical in the past. After years of dues paying with the relative obscurity of living in Hawaii and regularly playing, (sometimes to small audiences, at the Cross Rhythms and Roots & Branches festivals,) things seem to be finally paying off for the lady. Her song We Bow Down has become acknowledged as a worship classic and she is appearing this year at the Worship Together event. With all this, it must have been tempting for Kingsway to put Viola with an established record producer to turn in a set of radio friendly praise and worship songs. Instead, Kingsway have taken a truly adventurous step in linking Viola with the monumentally talented, though recently troubled, Kevin Prosch. It is exciting to learn that Kevin, one of the creative founding fathers of the new wave of contemporary praise and worship, now feels able to do some record production, and it is even more exciting when one listens to this resulting CD. For this is the work of a musical visionary. Anyone who saw Kevin at his Soul Survivor appearances a couple of years ago will know that he has been experimenting with numerous instruments and rhythms from the indigenous cultures of the world. Now, on Viola s breathtaking album, Kevin takes the sounds and textures of ethnic Hawaiian music and interweaves them into synth and drum box sound-scapes over which Viola sings, one moment in a delicate whisper of tenderness, the next second soaring with an abandon no previous recording even hinted at. Kevin also duets with Viola on several tracks. My favourites at the moment are The Longing with its eerie Indian-sounding intro and an African-sounding chant over which Viola sings about her Rose of Sharon; Father Father, a thrilling prayer for the Lord to come and restore our hearts over dazzling Asian percussion; and For Everything, where a meditation on Ecclesiastes is carried out against a stunning backdrop of electronic and ethnic sounds. Though unclassifiable (world music techno praise, anybody?), Viola, Kevin and Kingsway should be congratulated for such a groundbreaking album.
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