Tripping the Light Fantastic
The opening chords of Ken Verheecke’s newest Heart Dance Records release, Tripping the Light Fantastic, gently evoke rejuvenation. Healing was a theme in his preceding work, and being restored, it’s time to jump for joy. The first track, ‘Dance of Heaven,’ refers to the EP’s title which means ‘to dance nimbly or lightly.’ The clear, pure instrumentation overlaid with rising and falling chants brightly anticipates a celebration in which anyone can take part.
Feeling airy and light and free from distress makes easy what the next track suggests: one can Breathe. The opening, ethereal streams invite simple relaxation and thankfulness for present blessings which can overflow and become hope for future blessings. A main theme in Ken’s contemporary instrumental pieces is rest, and the tranquil drums on this track usher listeners to soft plateaus of peace.
But is healing and growth ever finished? ‘Healing Waters,’ is a call onward to deeper realms of the spirit. Instead of trying so hard in isolation, holding the hand of one greater than oneself is sometimes necessary to reach deep, authentic humanity. The lulling guitar on this track urges contemplation of boundless seas of love from the shores of one’s soul.
Perhaps greater guiding power comes from reception of the undeserved, as the next track, ‘Gift of Grace,’ encourages. This most up-beat and drum-driven song on the record deftly switches from driving verses — the rigors of daily life — to the half-time choruses, reminiscent of repeated dives into the mild halls of mercy.
To know forgiveness is to know stillness of the soul, and vice versa. The calming electronic swells of ‘Be Still and Know,’ interspersed with a smooth groove, provide ample time to prepare for what’s on the horizon. Although this piece runs a bit long, Ken keeps it consistent with the EP’s expansive surges and soarings blended with electric guitar.
The title track opens with a murmuring crowd — perhaps waiting for a concert or a train. It is slowly, delightfully drowned by a soft swooning and pop rhythm, leading to the long-awaited dance. Soulful, humming background vocals join a palm-muted rise and fall, as the song builds, pauses, and launches to its climactic conclusion. It’s tempting to say Ken has outdone himself. I am transported somewhere I long to stay as the soaring solo adorns the lovely foundation laid early on. As the sun sets on my journey through this album, I must learn to let go. But thanks to Ken’s matured skill and nimble imagination, this dance, this heavenly ball, has pointed to something Infinite and Beyond and has been well worth the light-fantastic trip.
Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by:
Ken Verheecke at Wind & Wheat Studio – Northern Michigan
Inspired by Ken’s morning runs along Mullet Lake in Northern Michigan
Photography: Ken Verheecke
Between Earth & Sky
Driving amid the Black Hills’ kaleidoscopic Autumn colors, I more easily imagined walking the magical, floating islands on the cover of Ken Verheecke’s newest release, Between Earth and Sky. Ken’s latest effort is effortless in the fluency of its charming and relaxing melodies. Crafted mostly for acoustic and electric guitar, Ken’s music also incorporates a backbone of electronic beats and harmonies. This inspiring Heart Dance Records September release features Ken at his highest creative energies. He has wedded his specialty — contemporary instrumental — with mellow electronic sounds for an eclectic blend of relaxing, meditative pieces and soft atmospheric pop. The record opens with “Let the Healing Begin” — quietly grooving, occasionally plaintive, but always hopeful. Later, the rising and falling hook of “Drifting Away,” recalls the perennial ups and downs of life, which, despite their omnipresence, are overshadowed by joy (evoked by the song’s prevailing harmonies). The celebratory “A Boy and His Bike,” hearkens back to childhood, a time when all things are new; and contrasting the homey acoustic feel of the previous track (“When She Speaks”), it lays down a more modern beat. Excellently ethereal, “A New Home” makes one long for heaven with its airy and celestial solo and passionate background vocals. Ken avoids the common pitfall of placing duller tracks towards the end. He saves the best for last, with the calming, electric/acoustic blend which is “Sunset” and the cascading, morning-waterfall melodies of “Dawn’s Embrace.” Between these last two comes “Shooting Star,” the beat and lead line of which blazes across one’s consciousness like a dazzling comet. Occasionally, the album’s alterations between acoustic and electric tracks seems disjointed. I sometimes wish for all of one or the other. But this doesn’t mean each song can’t stand alone: each holds its own with clean technique, polished skill, and mature structure. Overall, I’m glad to see such magnificent work from not only a stellar musician but a good friend. I’ve always been impressed by Ken’s ability to pour his heart and soul into his compositions, which often have the power to evoke emotional growth and healing. This release has definitely lifted my spirits and produced excitement for what Ken’s future work has in store.
Writer, Researcher, Drummer, Traveler
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Artisan Music Reviews
I first heard of Ken Verheecke’s instrumental music when only his acoustic guitar gave voice to it. That’s been many years ago, and now hismusic has many voices. Electric guitar and synthesizer vie for his attention and they have found their place in his repertoire. This is evident on his latest release between earth & sky. Ken’s ten-track album is a mix of ambient and contemporary tunes, all with soft edges and rippling resonance. Some of the tunes put me in mind of Santo & Johnny’s 1969
hit instrumental Sleep Walk while others are acoustic articulations of noteworthy milestones in a life. The first cut is Let the Healing Begin. Verheecke has a strong religious background and he infuses this strength into his compositions with very good success. His themes here is the open hands and open heart of a believer. Like most of the tunes on the recording, there is ebb and flow or a give and take, but more is obviously given.
There is a lot to be said for Be Still as the track name suggests. Gazing out of the window or just outside sitting on a big limestone rock as I used to do and looking at your surroundings will bring you more than the colors of the sky and the landscape. It will bring tremendous peace to your spirit. Adding to that reverie is Ken’s enchanting music. I liked When She Speaks as it reminded me of Hawaiian slack key guitar. There is a warm, rolling rhythm to the tune that puts one at ease. It is friendly and cheerful without going over the top. Whoever she is, her voice is music.
Ken moved from South Dakota to Illinois to Michigan or maybe it was the other way around. But his travels provide him copious amounts of inspiration to create new soundscapes with his instruments. New Home has piano, synth, and guitar and as you listen to it, you can picture opening all the closet doors, running up the stairs, and claiming your favorite space. This is going to be a happy place.
One of my other favorites is called Sunset. Its two-string tempo is the sound of the planet cooling down and getting ready for a dreamy night. It is the horizon vibrant with golds and purples and the promise of twinkling stars at any moment. And not far behind is the last cut,Dawn’s Embrace. Ken’s acoustic tune is warm and mellow as he portrays those first vestiges of light that begin a new day. Where I live the sun peeks up from behind Green Mountain and I can see the clouds with gold frosting lighting up at first light. The warmth of the day is just minutes away. I like this tune as celebrates my favorite time of day. Each day is a gift that many receive,but some do not. I don’t take that for granted, ever. Thanks for the reminder Ken.
Ken Verheecke has a harmonic, cohesive mix on between earth & sky. None of the tunes are overly rambunctious, just easygoing, melodic reminders to carpe the diem. His aspiration of adding peace and calm to our world is an undeniable success with this release.
– R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
Consider the Moon & Stars
This album opens with the immortal sound of Houston getting ready to launch the American spacecraft, carrying astronaut John Glenn, into space. He was to become the first American to orbit the earth and the fifth person to be sent into pace. The year was 1962.
From this point on this album is one long, gloriously beautiful journey through space in, as the first track states, This Languid Motion.
A richness of sound enters with Consider the moon and stars, where the imagination can see through the windows of the craft, to the true, glorious, yet to be discovered elements of a sparkling new world; fresh, mysterious and somehow infinitely magical.
Avalon Nights introduces a different beat, with some serious work on the acoustic guitar, a dash of vocals and rather spacey element added with the careful use of the synth.
The tantalising title of the fourth track, A Dream in Tangerine can only lead to a sense of wonderment, as the rhythm changes to once again return to the space like modality, where the rhythms are slightly faster, almost impulsive and adventurous, reflective of what element only the composer knows and the listener can interpret.
Gentle and soft Beyond What I Know is the perfect vehicle to spend some little time in reflection of what may be out there in the deep darkness that surrounds the earth. It is perhaps a simplistically beautiful translation of what must flow through the minds of astronauts as they sit in contemplation of worlds unknown as they travel through space.
Sirius rounds out very nicely a true musical journey which will become a favourite on the playlist, as it is many things, all of which come skilfully together to relax and remind that the world is full of charm, beauty and mystique simply waiting to be enjoyed and discovered.
The next time you are outside in the night, far away from the lights of the city spend a moment to consider the moon and stars.
Ken Verheecke – CONSIDER THE MOON & STARS: I’ve listened to Ken’s amazing work before, though the review was part of a collective venture… his new January, 2018 project certainly shows his talent at the very best level possible… and, you don’t have to just take my word for it… listen to the vibrant energy he projects on the title track, the 4:25 “Consider The Moon & Stars“, and you’ll fast be a believer… his guitar leads just SOAR on this beautiful piece of music! He’s a world traveler as well, and it shows in his highly creative musical style… the opener alone, “This Languid Motion“, brings the power of the heavenly spirits right into your living room in a most pleasant manner. Of the nine compositions offered up, it is (without doubt) the 5:22 “Aurora” that won my vote for personal favorite… simple lines, yet full of the POWER that music can bring into our lives. I give Ken a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this wondrous sonic excursion. Get more information about this fantastic player at Ken’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Autumn Reflections CD review
South Dakota is a stark land full of contrasts. Natural wonders such as plains, prairies, rushing waters, craggy hills, and extensive caves vie for attention along with Mash Potato wrestling, the Corn Palace and the Flaming Fountain. It is also the home of an extraordinary guitarist named Ken Verheecke. As the poplar tree leaves take on their first coating of yellow in the hills of the Smokey Mountains where I live, I am listening to his appropriately titled release called Autumn Reflections. His calming, contemporary guitar pieces are the perfect musical harbinger to a season that I love the most. It is a time when Mother Nature winds down a bit in preparation of her winter sleep and offers some of her most colorful and awe-inspiring displays just like Ken’s beautiful ballads.
Ken Verheecke has a bio about two sentences long. He’s from South Dakota, he was inspired by Will Ackerman, and he loves contemporary music and he is a man of great faith. When you hear Ken’’s wondrous ten-track album, his past will be of little consequence. What you really want to know is where is he heading next and can I get a ticket.
Autumn Reflections’ theme is the changing season, the cooling breezes, and the colors that delight the eyes. It is golden trees, lazy afternoons and a place where even time takes a vacation. Just about a dozen miles out of Deadwood nestled in the Black Hills is sleepy Cheyenne Crossing. It is fork in the road that can take you just about anywhere and Ken’s song Cheyenne Crossing is your guide. The music is bright and hopeful. It suggests that just around the curve is the place you have been looking for.
In The Morning is slow and peaceful. It is the sound of the amber sun peeking out over the hills, hinting at the warmth to come. It is the call of the magpies as they flitter to the gatepost and the crystal tears of morning dew that drop from the goldenrod. The calming melody shuns alarm clocks, keeps the coffee hot, and promises a wonderful day ahead. Soon the shadows will have their way.
There’s a miracle in the next room. At least that is the sense I get when I listen to While Aubrey Sleeps. The tune is not just a simple lullaby, but also a complex suite of polyphonic guitar voices. Sometimes you are so happy or so grateful or so in love that you don’t know what to do with yourself. Ken puts his heart on his sleeve and lets it flow into his fingertips.
One of my favorites on the album is called Falling Leaves. Ken’s tune hints at just a breath of wind, a dry, sunny day, and the migration of tawny sun catchers that know when their time is up. I can almost imagine the slow spiral of the leaves, some of them quite ambivalent, gliding solo. And others, giving in to the fate, and falling like rain.
Ken’s rendition of Indian Summer has all the warmth you would ever need on an October day. It is a celebration of just one more trip to the lake, one more hike up to hills in search of gold nuggets the size of a BB or arrowheads made by a Native craftsman. It is the pleasure of a fire just at twilight and the few lost fireflies finding their way. It is the glimmer of a million stars in the sky that remind you how big your world really is.
The recording closes with the title tune, Autumn Reflections. As I write this, the wind is stirring in the trees, the air is cooling off, and Mother Nature is teasing me with a blush of color on the foothills. Luckily, I now have Ken Verheecke’s placid fantasia to remind me about the days that lose their light to a change in the tilt of the earth, the landscape that transforms on a daily basis and the coming of another winter. I have come to a point in my life where I measure time in not hours or days or months, but in seasons. Thanks to Ken, I know I always have wondrous music to keep me company during my favorite time.
– reviewed by RJ Lannan Zone Music Reporter
West River Records (2012)
What Goes Around…
Twenty years ago compilation albums were de rigueur. Labels like Narada, Windham Hills and Higher Octave all had occasional offerings of their artists’ best works. Some were seasonal like Winter Solstice and some were collections by instrument or subject e.g. The Bach Variations and Passion – Music of The Guitar. It was a way for listeners to get a good sampling and make choices while being entertained. The tradition lives on in producer Will Ackerman’s recording, The Gathering. The legendary guitarist and founder of Windham Hills present twenty two extraordinary musicians on various instruments to delight the new listener as well as the old. I was fortunate to review many of these fine artists, so I will stick to the ones I have not. Every track is worth hearing as they represent the contemporary instrumental music genre at its best. This is Ackerman’s freshman debut of the West River Records label and frankly, he could not have chosen any better. I am not sure if this album is purely acoustic, but there are not a lot of electric-powered instruments involved. Another plus.
Glastenbury, VT by Masako is delightful glimpse into the Norman Rockwell age of America using solo piano as the medium. With a nod to George Gershwin, Masako’s composition wipes away the years and takes you to a place at the foot of the Green Mountains. It is a bygone era when dusty back roads got you from here to there, neighbors invited you in for iced tea and evenings were an opportunity to visit and talk without the use of electronic devices. Masako’s rendering is sharp and clear.
One of my immediate favorites on The Gathering is a song by guitarist Rudy Perrone called The Prophet. It is one of those tunes that, once you have heard it, just do not fade into memory and I for one really want to know the story behind it. Perhaps it is a tune of disbelief as in “I once met a man who said I would”, kind of thing. The easy going tune is beautiful in its simplicity, but the principal behind it remains complex. I love a good mystery.
Todd Boston contributes a lighthearted tune called The Brightest Night. He uses gentle guitar and a sweet serving of violin, and the song sparkles intensely. It is a tale of the warmest breeze, the darkest sky, and the most dazzling stars that Nature could muster all in the name of eternal romance.
Pianist Rocky Fretz weighs in with a heartfelt tune titled Kim’s Song. The solo piano ballad gently rolls along in your mind like an old time vignette. It is a walk along the path with hands held and fingers laced. It is the smile that lingers and that makes the earnest impression on the heart. This is the sound of a memory being born.
Livia’s Song by solo pianist Denise Young is a lento waltz that uses baby steps for the most part. Gentle, sweet and warm this song is a dance on daddy’s shoes kind of song with pretty ballerinas and afternoon teas with friends that are stuffed rather than animated. The song is also somewhat nostalgic in its melody, but that is a good thing as it brings back memories of the superlative kind.
I could easily learn to play Forever, a song by guitarist Ken Verheecke. I say that because the tune is quite simple, but the implications are astounding. I have to admit that I found the song to be sad, but not in a way created by despair, but rather by melancholy. There is a subdued sweetness to the tune that suggests promises made and love formed in the deepest place of the heart. The song would be right at home as a theme to a love story or a daytime drama. I listened to this song so many times that I think I could play it the way it was meant to be…by heart.
And finally blessed with abundant innate talent, producer Will Ackerman contributes a tune from his New England Roads album called The Wheel. I always thought that the wheel is the part that touches the road and carries you endlessly to places uncharted. Ackerman extraordinary guitar playing paired with a lush violin score by Steve Schuch allows the mind make endless discoveries. This album is highly recommended.
– reviewed by RJ Lannan on 1/20/2013
A Place Called Home
reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 6/19/2006
Seldom does the re-mastering of an already enjoyable recording yield such a rich and vibrant result as it does with acoustic guitarist Ken Verheecke’s outstanding re-release of a place called home(originally released in 2004). Verheecke’s gentle and heartfelt guitar playing is literally reborn on this CD, enhanced by new clarity and depth of sound. In addition to the new engineering aspects, the graphics were likewise upgraded (the original artwork was already pretty good). The new cover art, a farmhouse surrounded by a wheat field in the warm glow of a setting sun, merges with the music, both of them resonating feelings of peace, contentment, and genuine friendliness. Hearth and home, profound beauty disguised as utter simplicity, are heard throughout this exemplary recording. Verheecke’s adroit technique (sometimes solo, sometimes multi-tracked) and artist’s soul are amply demonstrated on every song.
In an earlier review, I wrote “It’s hard to not be touched by the opening Dawn’s Embrace which manages to be both affirming and laid-back at the same time, or the gentle minimalism of the closing title track, which ‘feels’ like walking up the lane to your house after a long day and catching sight of loved ones through a window, secure in the knowledge that a warm hearth, delicious meal, and good company await you inside.” All of that praise is amplified and underscored on the re-release, especially on the closing number, which has become one of my absolute favorite acoustic guitar pieces, period. I would put it up against anything by anyone (yes, even Will Ackerman). It is simply drop dead gorgeous and so heartfelt that it may even bring tears to your eyes if you are as sentimental as I am.
Another fact that I was reminded of when I played this new version of a place called home is how, much like Ackerman, Verheecke is able retain a soft gentle “candle in the window” mood throughout the album without being either repetitive or straying so far as to disturb the smooth flow of the album in its entirety. Nothing here will make you kick up your heels, granted, but you’re not going to get bored either (if you love acoustic guitar, that is). The pace of the entire album is slow and measured but not in a morose or somber way. It’s an instantly inviting, friendly, and engaging CD, and may strike you that it seems strangely familiar, but not in the way of imitation, but more like the feel of a well-worn shirt or sweater. It just “feels good”.
I referred to a place called home as “an acoustic ambient album” in my earlier review and I stand by that statement. The music would easily fill a room with peace, calm, and invite the listener to indulge in reflection or remembrance of a most pleasant variety. Of course, direct listening would allow you to delve into Verheecke’s talent and this new re-mastering is ideal for just that since now the tone and clarity of his guitar sparkles like dew on morning grass. a place called home may be the perfect CD to play while driving the back roads of rural America in the early evening with the sun tinting the western sky orange, then pink, then deep violet-blue. If you have to restrict your traveling to the armchair type, though, the album will still serve you in excellent stead, guiding you in your mind’s eye through a landscape of rolling hills, wheat fields glowing golden in the sun, and the day’s end promise of arriving home, a tasty dinner waiting on the table, and good cheer from loved ones to greet you. Simply put, it doesn’t get any better than this CD. I have fallen in love with a place called home all over again and with this newly spiffed-up version, the recording wins my highest recommendation and is nigh essential for all lovers of acoustic guitar music.