As indicated by the title, Michael Borowski’s “Peace Valley” is an album for contemplation, relaxation – and most importantly, to inspire us to search for that inner valley of peace that many rarely find the time to visit. Borowski has delivered a sublime, unpretentious, and mature debut album that will last long in any solo piano playlist. I’m especially impressed by the personal nature of many of the pieces and how they instantly connect with the listener. “Peace Valley” is one of those rare albums that will make your day better simply by listening.
Michael Borowski was born in Souderton, Pa, a suburb of Philadelphia. As the son of the piano teacher Cindy Borowski-Burns, his piano journey started at age 4. When he was about 10 years old, his mother took him to see a George Winston concert. That moment inspired him to start composing his own music. He went on to study Music Composition at Temple University. It was at Temple where he started playing in bands. He has toured nationally with various acts such as Manic Mule, Dirk Quinn Band, and MiZ. In 2020, Borowski gained the attention of Windham Hill Records founder, Will Ackerman. “Peace Valley” was recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios.
“Firefly” is the name of the gentle and humble album opener. Its slow build-up is almost hypnotic; it makes the listener hang on to each note, before the very satisfying conclusion. Try listening in a dark room, and you’ll see that it almost illuminates the surroundings, much like a firefly. It is piano magic, pure and simple. Bravo!
Next out is “Finding Joy”. Borowski says a lot using only a few chords. I especially like the melancholy that seems to be lurking in the background, indicating that the pursuit of joy and happiness often is a thought one. The somewhat open ending is interesting. “First Snow” paints a beautiful picture of this first winter’s day. Notice how the intensity rises as more and more snow fills the air. I love the ending too; it sounds cold. “First Snow” is a terrific piece in the tradition of albums like George Winston’s “December”, perfectly capturing the magic of the changing seasons.
My father, My Friend
At this stage, the album changes direction. It gets more personal, dealing with emotions and family matters. “My Father, My Friend” is a well-made and highly dynamic piece. Notice the intricate twists and turns in the opening, capturing human relationships’ complexity – especially in the family group. Your father’s friendship is obviously different from other relationships, and Borowski does a fine job in portraying that. “Arches” is one of the finest pieces on “Peace Valley”. Its victorious and happy vibe fills the listener with a sense that everything is possible.
If you are listening on Spotify, you can watch beautiful small “canvas videos”. To your right, you can see how the video looks for “Dear Son,”. It gives a new dimension to the listening experience. The piece has a lovely melody with a magnificent conclusion. Also, notice the “written” form in the title, as if the piece is an opening to a letter. “Cynthia Ann” is a gentle and quiet jewel. Short, but complete in every way.
We are now entering the last part of the album. The title track binds the album together and makes us reflect on what peace really is. Usually, we think of it in terms of world peace – but peace on this album is much more personal. It is a valley in our hearts, somewhere we can go to feel safe and secure. Needless to say, “Peace Valley” is breathtakingly beautiful, a small masterpiece really.
“K” clears the air after “Peace Valley” with its uncomplicated and easy-going vibe. “7AM Start” is, as implied by the title, dreadfully heavy and slow. Borowski plays Will Ackerman’s classic “The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter” with such gentleness that I almost don’t miss Will’s guitar. “Morning Cycle” makes sure that the album ends on a high note, making us cherish the morning routine. Life is, after all, not about the grand moments but everyday life. “Morning Cycle” is a fine reminder of just that.
In conclusion: A hallmark of a great solo piano album is that the hours spent listening feels like a time out. Michael Borowski’s “Peace Valley” has this quality in abundance. But that is not all; each of the twelve pieces has a story to tell. These small glimpses of family life – and life in general – are significant and comforting. I found myself nodding to “My Father, My Friend” and “Dear Son,”, as if reading a well-written short story. “Peace Valley” leaves you feeling rested, happy and thankful. I’m certain that “Peace Valley” is the start of something big – and Michael Borowski definitely is an artist to follow in the years to come. Highly recommended!
Tip: Michael Borowski recently released this single – “The Longest Goodbye”. If you like “Peace Valley”, you will for sure enjoy this too.
For more information and music samples, visit michaelborowskimusic.com