When music makes you daydream, that’s a sure sign of quality. Let your mind wander, and the music will take you anywhere in a heartbeat. It is one of the best feelings there is. Shanon Fendrich’s debut album “Red Sky Prairie” is such an album. But that is not all; it comes with a set of ready-made daydreams which inspired Fendrich’s creative process. “Red Sky Prairie” is 2019’s finest debut album and establishes Fendrich as one of the most promising New Age music artists today.
Sharon Fendrich was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, USA. She began music studies at age three and completed advanced studies in piano, choral music, conducting, orchestration and composition in college at Tufts University. Her current vocal studies include opera, jazz, and musical theatre.
This episode of Dream Mixtape is dedicated to “Red Sky Prairie”:
When reviewing and analyzing music, the question is always; what is it about? What stories are told? Usually, there’s quite a bit of guessing. The good thing about “Red Sky Prairie” is that Sharon has included a quite descriptive text, a story, that guides us into her world of music. She writes: “The inspiration for the album came from a daydream I had about a place where the sky was filled with dusty, red-orange, luscious hues after the passing of a storm. A hushed early evening breeze had fallen upon a prairie. I saw myself at various ages residing in a weather-worn white farmhouse, able to feel the emotions of the phases of life. A profound sensation of safety and peace permeated the air in this scene and the feeling has stayed with me ever since. “Red Sky Prairie” was born.”
“L’dor Vador” is the album opener. I’m very impressed by how Sharon manages to communicate a feeling of safety. It is a song about belonging and sensing a strong connection, not only to a place but to a community and a faith. You don’t want to be anywhere else but here. The song starts with a warm synth pad and gentle piano. Anna Emelyanova’s vocals are incredible. Another thing you’ll notice right away is the quality of the arrangement. Fendrich traveled to the Netherlands to record and mix the album at Kerani Music Studio, and the mastering was done by engineer Stephen Marsh, known for his work with some of Hollywood’s greatest composers. Given the overall quality of “Red Sky Prairie”, I would not be surprised if Kerani and her crew in time can compete with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton in terms of studio excellence. On “Red Sky Prairie” we get to hear the very talented Wilfred Sassen (violin), Anna Emelyanova (voice), Joep Willems (cello), Helen Hendriks (flute) and Ies Muller (Irish flute).
The album will appeal very much to fans of Secret Garden. Indeed, from a Neo-Classical, New Age music perspective, “Red Sky Prairie” is very close to their much-loved “Songs from A Secret Garden” (1996) sound – which will have a large appeal. Its sound is gentle, reflective, and honest – perfectly balancing a touch of melancholy with positive emotions. One of the finest songs on the album is song no. 2, “A Secret Song,” which I’m sure even Rolf Løvland of Secret Garden would have been proud of. It is a jewel. Bravo!
“Within Whispers” starts (and ends) with the sound of the wind. Then we hear the piano and the flute. It is marvelous how the whispering wind fades into the sound of the flute. It is as if the song comes to life through the blowing wind. The orchestral backing is spotless, perfection on every level.
Moving on, the intro to the title track makes me think of Enya. Indeed, the whole song has a certain level of excellence that we expect from this one-of-a-kind artist. I love how the song evolves and moves, just like a spectacular sunset. It is there but for a short moment, then it is gone. It is a song of strong, vibrant colors; red, red, red. I can’t help being impressed by how Fendrich turned the view of a prairie landscape into this song.
Song of the Dove
Circling back to the daydreams, “Red Sky Prairie” comes with a story. It goes like this: “A weather-worn, wooden farmhouse clad in tired whitewash stands rooted to its foundation despite the battering torment of storm upon storm. The weary porch offers just enough space to gaze upon the forever-open prairie. An elderly woman has found contemplative comfort in the rocking chair. Its finish so closely resembles the peeling paint of the house that from a distance all three, woman, chair, and house become one.” You can read the whole story on the cover and on Sharon’s homepage. We follow this woman through several stages of her life, and the prairie is a place where emotions are expressed and processed.
“The Song of the Dove” is sung in Esperanto, a language constructed to unify people across cultures. This piece is about the dove of peace which is always sent out to bring back peace. This song is about our desire for calm and peace in our world.
The song “Never Alone” is a cry for guidance in Spanish, English, and Yiddish. It is, at the same time, filled with a deep sense of gratitude and love. The instrumental “Moonswept” is another winner; its delicate Neo-Classical sound would fit well in any romantic Hollywood movie. It is high end in every sense.
The woman we are following is getting older. You can see this by the last four song titles. I love the songs’ contemplative qualities. The grand emotions of youth are replaced by introspection and thinking. “Bittersweet Memory” takes us way back in time. It is about the cherishing of love lost.
“Last Tears” is about the grief process. In the beginning of grief, the tears and sorrow have such power over us. As time passes it changes. The Last Tears are those last ones we cry before we move on to being able to breathe again, to have some hope for the future, to open to love again. They are tears of acceptance and willingness.
Then life is over; “In Memoriam” is about cherishing the memory of a loved one while facing grief. Perhaps the best piece is saved for last; “That September Day” is nothing short of a triumph. It is a celebration of life (it is also a 9/11 Memorial Tribute Song).
In conclusion: I asked myself; is “Red Sky Prairie” by Sharon Fendrich a perfect album? Yes, it is pretty close to a flawless New Age music release. The only thing that is missing is a hit song like Enya’s “Only Time” or Secret Garden’s “You Raise Me Up.” But to ask for a smash hit seems counterproductive. It is, after all, a debut artist we are talking about. I love the multi-dimensional approach; how Sharon’s view of the prairie’s burning sky turned into this inspired piece of music, which also contains a daydream-vision of the wooden farmhouse and its inhabitants. How extraordinary! “Red Sky Prairie” is hands down the best debut album on the New Age music scene since Nitish Kulkarni’s “Synesthetic” in 2014. Sharon Fendrich has the ability to take this genre to new heights.
Score: 98/100 – See our scoring policy
For more music samples and information, visit sharonfendrich.com