Llewellyn is a million-selling New Age artist with a strong following in the healing-music world and a pretty impressive back catalog. Walking with Merlyn is my first exposure to his music, and while it’s lighter fare than I usually prefer, after journeying through it a few times I certainly understand the allure. What’s offered here is graceful, full-on symphonic New Age music that’s unabashedly romantic–swelling strings, glistening harps, arcing pan flutes, hand drums and more dance their way through seven tracks here. Throughout the disc the mood is light, with hints of carefully placed drama, and the tempo hovers nicely between upbeat and cool downtempo. Where I had expected perhaps theme-heavy posing and bombast, I got instead a CD that has something to say, and says it in a practiced storyteller’s voice. It’s easy to get lost in a piece like “The Sacred Box – Symbols of Mastery,” carried along on lush, sweeping chords and gently plucked strings. “Gateway to the Otherworld” is a favorite for me, with flutes sliding over warm pads and an almost tribal drumline. It packs a slight worldmusic feel without losing sight of Llewellyn’s story. And “Songspells” finishes off the disc with a galloping rhythm, heavy drums and a cinematic verve.
The melodies here are lyrical, the instruments deftly swapping off the role of lead singer, apparently knowing just when to step back. Llewellyn gives himself space to tell each of these stories; most of the tracks clock in at around 8 pleasant, image-loaded minutes, but there’s no sense of drag or repetition. Just a set of stories nicely told.
Obviously, Walking with Merlyn is aimed at those listeners who prefer beats, structure and the overall acceptable lightness of being that in part defines New Age music. It proudly wears its crystals-and-herbs pedigree on its sleeve, and rightly so. Within that framework Walking with Merlyn is a quite enjoyable CD, excellently constructed, and I’m glad to have finally met the music of Llewellyn.
Available from Paradise Music.