Oct 31, 2013

CD Review: Winterfold by Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning, Wendy Goodwin

I like listening to instrumental music while I write, and I've found Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning's work to be among the best--gentle, inspiring, and decidedly Celtic.

I posted an interview last year with Jeff Johnson here. So when he asked if I'd like to review his latest CD, I said, "Yes, please!"

Winterfold is the perfect combination of gentle spirit-lifting music and rhythmic toe-tapping pieces. Johnson is accompanied as he is on many of his CDs by Irish musician Brian Dunning, but this time they've also featured Wendy Goodwin on violin. A few other musicians join in as well, and the result is a nice long CD you can play this winter without the usual holiday tunes. Not that I don't love Christmas music, but sometimes you want something new and fresh, and this is it.

The CD was inspired in part by the writings of George Mackay Brown, a Scottish poet.

One of my favorite tracks is called Watching Clouds. It made me feel like I was back here, watching these clouds at Rosses Point, County Sligo, Ireland:

But it's hard to pick a favorite because all the tracks are inspiring. I hope you'll check out Winterfold!

You can find this CD on iTunes, and on the Ark Music site. Check out the sample of Watching Clouds!

FTC disclosure: Jeff Johnson and Ark Music provided me with a promotional copy of Winterfold for the purpose of a review. I was not otherwise compensated or required to write a positive review. This review is nothing but my own honest opinion.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hey Cindy.
    Thank you for your thought-full and thought-provoking critique of Jeff Johnson's 'Winterfold' album.
    I most certainly identify with your pithy observation: "Not that I don't love Christmas music, but sometimes you want something new and fresh."
    Indeed, dear lady.
    A whole lot more than "sometimes" in my case.
    In point of fact, Jeff's 1990 masterstroke 'Centerpoint' was my initiation into Christmas music that transcended the standard chestnuts of the Yuletide season.
    In this vastly underappreciated album, Keith Patman's unique Christmas poetry is narrated wonder-fully by Dallas McKennon and overlaid with Jeff's hauntingly beautiful and stratospheric keyboards.
    Dallas McKennon's magical 'voice of the wizard' had already enchanted me in two of Jeff's previous recordings, 'The Awakening' and 'This Mystery I Pose,' and his 'Centerpoint' readings are no less mesmerizing.....
    Especially when combined with Jeff Johnson's one-of-a-kind musical genius.
    Check out these 'lyrics' from the title track:
    "It is a still scene –
    Animal, human, angel awe
    Surrounds the newborn, radiant child
    – A centerpoint in time, whose ways and places wrap
    In layers about the crib of straw,
    Enveloping Bethlehem as a many-folded map.
    It is a star's still centerpoint –
    God's scissors cut it in the paper layers
    – Rays piercing Babylon, Sodom, pyramids,
    Dark rain and floodswell, Eden's flaming gate .....
    Rays shot through Rome and Dachau, martyrs' prayers,
    Wake of galleons, hoofbeats, moonwalk, 1998 .....
    God's hands, at either end of time,
    Unfold the map, reveal the geometric star
    And its still centerpoint: Himself, incarnate."
    THAT certainly qualifies as "something new and fresh."
    And then there's 'Winterfold'!
    Listening first to 'Centerpoint' then 'Winterfold' is not unlike refracting light through the prism of Jeff Johnson's sonic splendour in two different ways.
    Try playing them back to back, Cindy, and see if you don't agree.
    Meanwhile, I take my hat off to you for taking the time to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the incomparable artistic vision of this gifted musician.
    And may I add: That you are capable of being so discriminating in such a gentle and celebratory fashion is a Divine gift in itself, one that you've obviously taken care to cultivate and nurture.
    PhiLiP s. SchMidT
    London, Ontario, Canada

    1. Thanks for your comment, PhiLip. I'm glad to know you found the review helpful, and it's wonderful to meet another Jeff Johnson fan!