Album Review: The Last Train to Desolation Pass from Nick Peck

Album:  The Last Train to Desolation Pass 
Artist:  Nick Peck

The Last Train to Desolation Pass from composer/multi-instrumentalist Nick Peck is his second offering in a series of instrumental recordings that presents a story through a juxtaposition of orchestral, folkloric, and jazz styles. Each track depicts a phase in the journey of a steam locomotive through a network of hills and valleys.  Peck may have intended for audiences to picture his motivation to compose the music but whether the listener can picture the pre-conceived images is inconsequential as the music itself is descriptive of an epic voyage.  One that transcends the images Peck intended to convey.

"Prelude to Cascadia" starts off the recording with gently tweezed guitar strings performed by Peck, imbuing a flamenco palette.  The beauty emanating from the guitar strings portray a bucolic vista that whisks audiences into sweet solace.  The steam locomotive is audible on "Part I Departure (101 Valley Farms)," chugging steadily then ebbs into a calming patter as Peck's guitar strings emerge, planting flowery sprigs along the melodic bed as his keys color in comely textures.  A series of reed instruments performed by Peck surface, accompanied by Ben Lockwood on flute, sow scenic images in the listener's thoughts.

Continuing on, "Part 2 Desolation Pass to Hell's Peak" grows more intense in the instrumentation with blazing trumpets portending a haunting image over the horizon.  Peck's use of glockenspiel-sounding chimes layered in raspy guitar licks soften the thundering rumbles of the chord patterns.  The peppering of gently stroking keys along "Part 3 Remembrance Canyon Park" permeate a soothing mood entwined in soaring guitar chords.  The church bell-sounding peals in the backdrop give listeners the impression of passing through a rural town as the high pitch of his guitar riffs quilt shimmery rosettes along the trail.

The recording closes with "Part 4 Race to the Sea (End of the Line)," combining elements of power rock guitar, folkloric horns and smooth jazz keys.  Each movement, each phase in the track is palpable, focusing the listener's attention, compelling his audience to follow the voyage through its intricate twists, valleys, and lifts. The ride is filled with gorgeous melodic spreads interspersed by haunting interludes.

Exhibiting the gracefulness of a ballet and the intellectual intricacies of an enthralling play, Peck's offering holds the audience's attention from start to finish.  His compositions move between smooth jazz phrasing to explosive power rock licks, orchestral sweeps, and folkloric pastures.  His compositions are freely improvised and provide audiences with an epic voyage.

Nick Peck - Classical Guitar, Steel Guitar, 12-String Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric Bass, Keyboards, Trumpets, Flugelhorn, Descant Recorder, Whistle, and Percussion 

Ben Lockwood - Flute


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