New Review of The Lullaby Album by Michael Debbage

The Lullaby Album
Carolyn Southworth and Jennifer Thomas
2009/Heron’s Point Music  
Disc 1 with Orchestration 53:32 mins
Disc 2 Solo Piano 48:59

Reviewed by Michael Debbage 

It is very clear by the title of the album that this is a specialty project. But how is this album different from any other lullaby album?  It is a very personal project with Jennifer Thomas dedicating it to her first-born, Preston. And to add to the tie that binds, Jennifer extended that collaboration to her mother Carolyn Southworth, keeping it all in the family. But to those of you that may be put off by the specialty label, the album is a double feature, one of which includes some orchestration, resulting in an album that not only has a special purpose but also includes the entertainment factor. 

The Lullaby Album includes 3 original compositions from each artist with the remaining balance relying on some very familiar tunes. On the latter, the album opens with the infamous “Brahms Lullaby” with Thomas taking the lead on the arrangement. In complete contrast, Thomas gives “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” a significant makeover thanks to the wonderful orchestration assistance from Jace Vek.  As far as her original compositions are concerned there is the warm and fluid “Baby Of Mine” in contrast with the more classically based “Un Petit Nocturne” both impressive for completely different reasons.

 Southworth’s cover contributions come courtesy of the mystical “Old Scottish Lullaby” and the Appalachian “All The Pretty Horses”. But her best original contribution and for that matter the album’s finer moment, is the utterly moving “Unseen Angel”.  The song opens with Southworth’s memorable melody that is fleshed out with Jace Vek’s inspirational orchestration, paralleling the emotive tug that John Barry and Tim Janis are more than capable of doing on any given day.  Whether in the stripped down version found on the solo disc or with the orchestration, this song alone is worth the price of admission. 

Back in 2006 both mother and daughter released their debut albums. Southworth focused on a mainstream effort while Thomas introduced her unique blend of classical trimmings clothed in a New Age mainstream effort, bringing a sense of warmth to her music.  Here they have managed to blend their own musical influences to compose a specialty album that also includes an intrinsic entertainment value. With or without child, The Lullaby Album double feature is not only an album of significant quantity but also one of quality material. Whether or not Southworth and Thomas will collaborate again remains to be seen. But there is no doubting that we can expect to hear more wonderful material from these two very different artists.

New Interview by Kathy Parsons 9.25.09

Here is a link to the interview that my mom and I just did with Kathy Parsons from  Kathy is a well-known reviewer of piano music and used to be a writer for Solo Piano Publications before she branched off and started her own site.  Everyone knows Kathy 🙂

There are lots of fun photos, and insider info 🙂 Enjoy! Oh and let me know your thoughts too.

Another Great Article/Review from a Newspaper – East Oregonian 9.21.09

Link  to original article:

Mother-daughter team create lullaby album98149a

The East Oregonian

When Jennifer Thomas’ newborn son refused to fall asleep at night, she got an inspiration.

Thomas, a pianist and composer, set little Preston in a baby swing and started playing sweet lullabies on her piano. The baby melted into slumber as quickly as if Mr. Sandman himself had made a house call.

The result of Thomas’ revelation is “The Lullaby Album,” created by Thomas and her mother, Carolyn Southworth, and personally tested by Preston. The music is relaxing enough to soothe not only infants, but stressed and frazzled adults.

Southworth, who grew up in Pendleton and now lives in Camano Island, Wash., said her daughter was at her wit’s end with Preston.

“The little stinker would not go to sleep,” she said, laughing. “He was traumatized.”

Once Preston started getting his sleep, Thomas mulled over the idea of creating a collection of traditional and original lullabies to help other parents lull their babies into dreamland. She asked her mom to compose some of the songs and play on the two-CD album with her.

“I didn’t have to think about it for more than two seconds,” Southworth said.

The women, both talented pianists, violinists and composers, released solo albums prior to “The Lullaby Album.” Southworth debuted with “The End of Day,” while Thomas released an album called “Key of Sea.”

Southworth, who started playing violin and piano at the age of five, is an alumnus of the Pendleton School District’s strings program.

“I was one of the original kids under Shirlene McMichael,” Southworth said.

McMichael taught in the ’60s when Pendleton served as Suzuki’s first American pilot program for a method of teaching stringed instruments that involves immersion and memorizing by rote. Though the method was wildly popular in Japan, it didn’t reach the United States until school board member Betty Feves talked the board into giving it a try.

Southworth, daughter of Dr. Derrell and Thelma Lindsay, also took private violin and piano lessons.

“I will always be grateful to the many wonderful teachers that I had in Pendleton, such as Shirlene McMichael, Rob and Barbara Roy, Betty Feves, Mabel Gerards and Betty White,” said Southworth. “Those people made a huge impact on my life,”

She discovered music theory in Roy’s classroom. The lessons took so well that, later, at Brigham Young University, she “sat there twiddling my thumbs for two years” in the school’s required music theory classes.

While Southworth taught all four of her children to play piano, the lessons caught fire only in Jennifer, who seemed to spend every spare moment practicing.

“She practiced all hours,” Southworth said. “I actually had to say, ‘Jenny, stop practicing.'”

Her drive paid off. She’s won numerous competitions and Thomas’ music caught the ear of independent filmmakers and has been heard on NBC’s Universal Sports network.

With the lullaby project, mother and daughter divided the composing and orchestration almost down the middle. The women collaborated from afar, since Thomas lives an hour-and-a-half down the road in Fall City, Wash.

One of Southworth’s compositions is “Unseen Angel,” inspired by a friend who suffered from multiple organ failure and seemed past hope when she revived.

“She literally died – her husband worked on her, giving her CPR, for two hours,” Southworth said. “She was blessed from the other side. The doctors were shocked. She’s perfect today.”

Emmy Award-winning pianist Jace Vek orchestrated the song and Grammy Award winner Paul Speer engineered and mixed the album. The album contains vocals by Jillian Goldin and Lori Cunningham.

The two discs have identical song lists. The first is piano with orchestra and the second contains piano solos. The second CD is aimed at children and is “Preston-approved.”

New Review of ‘Key of Sea’ by Michael Debbage

Jennifer ThomasKey Of Sea
Jennifer Thomas
2006/ Tickled Ivory Studios 

Review originally posted on September 5, 2009. Original link:

Reviewed by Michael Debbage 

There are two schools of theory as to why 2006’s Key Of Sea has been overlooked to date. The first theory is that the album was way under promoted and the second theory is that this reviewer was clueless and has only just managed to get on the bandwagon. Even if the latter is the correct selection then we are about to make up for that three year oversight. Simply put, Key Of Sea is one of those cross pollinating albums that is not only experimental and intriguing but also exquisite and invigorating. Buried in classical themes and arrangements, Jennifer Thomas also brings beautiful warmth to her music that is countered with melodies that will enrapture your heart. 

Clocking in at just less than 52 minutes, Key Of Sea has a total of thirteen tracks, five of which are adaptation of other composers though personalized by Jennifer with her own variation of the theme. In fact, the album begins with one such arrangement via her take on MacDowell‘s Piano Concerto No.2 courtesy of her interpretation entitled “A Beautiful Storm”. The song begins slowly as Jennifer continues to work the entire range of her piano, complimented by sweeping orchestrated strings. The song is moody and intense and is a very impressive opener. Equally as remarkable is her interpretation of J.S. Bach “Cello Suite No.1 in G Major” courtesy of “Suite Dreams”. This song also features fellow artist and mother Carolyn Southworth on violin and it is utterly breathtaking. Turn up the volume to fully enjoy this beauty.

But Key Of Sea is not just about Jennifer’s interpretations of someone else’s music. Pay close attention to her own compositions and you will quickly note her gift of composing her own material. Skip forward to “Will’s Song” that is both reflective and rambunctious with its delicate piano work countered by her colorful orchestrated string arrangements. Equal to the task are the extraordinary “Old Movie Romance” and “Pure” that focus more on Jennifer’s top draw piano work that is skillful, precise yet fluid and warm. Much like her peer William Joseph, she has the keen sense and ability to present her gift of playing with a sense of warm affection and adventure. This is best heard on the thunderous “The Tempest”, though at times its seductive qualities would suggest renaming it “The Temptress”. Either way the results are sensually sumptuous. 

Key Of Sea represents Jennifer Thomas’ debut album, yet from the sleeve photography, production to the astonishing musical contents, her freshman offering are more in line with a veteran who has been creating music for years. Thus, her immediate problem will be how to follow up with this stellar debut. Apparently, she has just released a collaborative effort with the equally talented artist Carolyn Southworth entitled The Lullaby Album. Word on the street indicates that her follow up effort is just as breathtaking and fresh as her debut Key Of Sea. Needless to say one can only expect many more brilliant musical moments from this relatively newcomer Jennifer Thomas.

New Review of The Lullaby Album – Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)

Link to original article:
“Lullaby Album” is all in the Family
by Scott Iwasaki
Writer for The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT
Entertainment/Music News




Nearly three years ago, I met a woman named Carolyn Southworth. She and her husband, Ron, came to town for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints general conference.

They gave me a CD of Carolyn’s piano music, “At the End of the Day.”

At first I expected a church-oriented CD, but instead, after talking with them, I realized that the music was what I like to call contemporary instrumental.

Other contemporary instrumentalists I listen to include Suzanne Ciani, David Lanz and the guitar and woodwind duo Tingstad & Rumbel.

To my surprise, SoLullaby Album Cover copyuthworth knows Nancy Rumbel and had her play on the album, which is one of my favorites to this day.

Well, Southworth has released a new album titled “The Lullaby Album.”

This two-CD release, by Southworth and her daughter Jennifer Thomas, reminds me of David Lanz’s “Skyline Firedance” because one disc is solo piano versions of songs and the other disc features the same piano songs with an orchestral arrangement.

And to tell you all the truth, “The Lullaby Album,” which features traditional, pop and original melodies, is quite good.

Southworth said the album came about after Thomas, also a recording artist who released her debut CD “Key of Sea” in 2007, had her first child. The baby had difficulty falling asleep. So Thomas would play the piano to calm her young boy down.

The sessions gave Thomas the idea to do an album of lullabies, and she asked her mother to make the project a joint venture.

The result is a nice mother-daughter collaboration, which is available at,, and

Southworth’s heartfelt arrangements on tracks such as “Sweet Dreams,” “All the Pretty Little Horses,” “Dream Weaver” and “All Through the Night” intertwine flawlessly with Thomas’ tracks that include “Brahms’ Lullaby,” her own “Dancing on the Clouds,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and Billy Joel’s “Goodnight, My Angel.”

Award-winning vocalists Jillian Goldin and Lori Cunningham add their touches to some of the tracks, and the orchestration on the songs “Dream Weaver,” “Twinkle Twinkle…,” “Old Scottish Lullaby” and “Unseen Angel,” by Emmy Award-winning pianist Jace Vek, is flawless.

Grammy Award-winner Paul Speer, who, in addition to his solo works, has recorded albums with Lanz, engineered and mixed “The Lullaby Album.”

Two songs caught my attention. The first was the LDS Church Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” which, I must say, is my mother’s favorite Primary song. Southworth’s arrangement will probably make my mom cry.

The second is “Unseen Angel.” Southworth said the song was inspired by an incident in which her friend was rushed to the hospital suffering from multiple organ failure. Through faith and the efforts of paramedics and doctors, her friend, to the doctors’ amazement, made a miraculous full recovery.

“The Lullaby Album” is definitely a keeper for me.


Kathy Parsons’ Review of “The Lullaby Album”

Lullaby Album Cover copyThe Lullaby Album
Carolyn Southworth & Jennifer Thomas
2009 / Tickled Ivory Music & Heron’s Point Music
Disc 1: 53.4 minutes Disc 2: 48.9 minutes

The Lullaby Album is a very special two-disc collection of traditional and original lullabies composed, arranged and performed by Carolyn Southworth and Jennifer Thomas. Disc One is piano with orchestra and Disc Two is the same songs as piano solos. Two factors make this album unusual. The first is that Jennifer Thomas is Carolyn Southworth’s daughter, and the second is that they teamed up to create music that Jennifer’s baby, a problem sleeper, could fall asleep to. As they say in the liner notes, all of the music has been tried, tested and “Preston approved.” Both pianists are classically trained, both are piano teachers, and each has released a solo album. Without the liner notes, it is not obvious who is playing which songs, so the album is smooth, polished, and heartfelt from beginning to end. The artists’ intention with the two discs was that the solo piano CD would be for calming at bedtime and the orchestrated one is “for those who like a little more to listen to.” Paul Speer did the mixing and mastering of the album, and Jace Vek contributed orchestrations for four of the pieces. I really can’t say I prefer one CD over the other – I love the simple honesty of solo piano, but the orchestrated versions are compelling, too. I’m glad I don’t have to choose!

Both discs begin with Brahms’ Lullaby, probably the best-known lullaby in the world. Jennifer Thomas’ solo piano arrangement is tender and sweet. Carolyn Southworth’s “Sweet Dreams” appears three times – as a piano solo, orchestrated with piano, and with vocals. All three versions are gorgeous, but I think I like the solo version best. There are several other high points on the solo CD. Thomas’ “Baby of Mine (Preston’s Song)” is a favorite, filled with love and wonder. Another favorite is Southworth’s arrangement of “All the Pretty Little Horses,” a poignant minor key beauty. Thomas’ “Un Petit Nocturne” is a classically influenced gem. Her “Dancing On the Clouds” is dreamy and magical, as is Southworth’s take on “Old Scottish Lullaby.” Thomas’ arrangement of Billy Joel’s “Goodnight, My Angel” is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Highlights of the piano with orchestra CD include “Baby of Mine,” where the piano is backed with strings and percussion and “Un Petit Nocturne” with harp and angelic voices as accompaniment. Jace Vek’s orchestration gives “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” a very Celtic flavor that includes bagpipe and tambourine – a spirited and fascinating arrangement! Vek also orchestrated “Old Scottish Lullaby,” this time with full orchestra – absolutely dreamy! Thomas keeps the orchestration behind “Goodnight, My Angel” simple, adding strings to embellish the enchanting melody. “Unseen Angel” begins with very spare accompaniment, but becomes almost cinematic with full orchestration as it builds and then gently ebbs back to solo piano.

Jennifer Thomas and Carolyn Southworth have created a very personal yet very universal collection with The Lullaby Album. Even if you don’t have children in your household, give your inner child a treat with this warm and soothing recording. Both of the CDs are full and rich, and should appeal to hearts of any age. I think I’ll cuddle up with my blankie and listen to this music again! It’s available from,, Amazon, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Kathy Parsons