Album cover of "Cranes in the Moonlight" by James Filkins featuring a serene illustration of cranes by a moonlit lake.

Cranes in the Moonlight

James Filkins‘ latest album, “Cranes in the Moonlight,” offers a profound auditory journey that meticulously blends the serenity of nature with the richness of diverse musical expressions. After a significant hiatus, Filkins returns with a collection that not only showcases his prowess on the acoustic and baritone guitars but also celebrates the collaborative spirit of musicians from across the globe.

Artistic Collaboration and Visual Imagery Each track on the album is a testament to Filkins’ unique ability to fuse different musical styles—ranging from acoustic, ambient, to Celtic, and jazz influences. The inclusion of a myriad of instruments adds layers of depth and emotion to the compositions. Noteworthy contributions include Polish cellist Josia Cieslak, Turkish accordionist Alex Somov, Canadian guitarist Noah Zacharin, Peruvian flautist Luis Vilca, English violinist Jess Townsend, Italian percussionist Silvio Centamore, and Australian guitarist Steve Reinthal. These artists bring their unique cultural and musical insights, enriching the album’s texture.

The cover art by Glenn Wolff is both evocative and symbolic, portraying cranes in a tranquil lakeside setting under the moonlight. This imagery beautifully echoes the album’s title track, setting the tone for the themes of nature and introspection that permeate the music.

Track Highlights and Musical Journey

  1. Unfettered: This track is a beautiful opener, reflecting themes of freedom and introspection. The intricate guitar work by Filkins, coupled with the masterful electric guitar overlays by Noah Zacharin, creates a soundscape that is both calming and invigorating.

  2. Cranes in the Moonlight: The title track stands out with its fingerstyle guitar performance by Filkins, capturing the mystical presence of Sandhill Cranes against a moonlit backdrop. The piece is immersive, drawing listeners into a cinematic portrayal of nature’s quiet beauty.

  3. When Your Wife Travels to Italy: Exploring themes of longing and emotional connection, this track features poignant violin by Jess Townsend and soulful accordion by Alex Somov. It’s a melodious narrative of distance and love, enriched by deep musical dialogue.

  4. Earthbound: Inspired by John Mauk‘s “Field Notes for the Earthbound,” this piece uses the chill and calm moods of the music to evoke a sense of freedom and the longing to explore beyond the mundane.

  5. Good Harbor Bay: An ode to the natural beauty of Leelanau Peninsula, this track features vibrant flute melodies by Luis Vilca and rhythmic congas by Silvio Centamore, encapsulating the essence of a serene lakeside.

  6. Van Gogh & Picasso – A Conversation: A unique piece where Filkins imagines a dialogue between two of the greatest painters through music, reflecting on art and creativity with a chill, romantic vibe.

  7. Poplars in the Wind: Capturing the sound of poplar trees swaying, this track combines the acoustic nuances of Filkins’ guitar with the natural sounds of the environment, creating a meditative experience.

  8. Gray Sky Over Port Oneida: A reflective piece that uses cello and guitar to evoke the expansive beauty and introspective mood of a cloudy day by the lake, skillfully performed by Joasia Cieslak and Filkins.

  9. Brothers: A narrative about familial bonds, featuring dual guitars by Filkins and Steve Reinthal, weaving a story of brotherhood and companionship through melodic strings.

  10. Forgiveness: An exploration of the complexities of forgiveness, with emotive guitar play symbolizing personal growth and reconciliation.

  11. Life on the 45th Parallel: Celebrating the beauty of Michigan’s natural landscapes, this track is a pure expression of Filkins’ connection to his home, delivered through intricate guitar melodies.

  12. Mercy Droppeth Like Rain: A contemplative piece that combines the poignant sounds of the baritone guitar with the dual tones of electric guitars by Noah Zacharin, reflecting on the themes of hope and renewal.

Cranes in the Moonlight” is more than just an album; it’s an invitation to explore the confluence of human emotion with the sublime beauty of the natural world. Through each track, Filkins and his ensemble of global musicians offer a rich tapestry of sounds that resonate with any listener looking for depth and authenticity in music.


The very title of this album, Cranes in the Moonlight conjures up such a peaceful scenario. It is one of those rare, magical moments in nature and in time when everything is perfect. Just enough moonlight in just enough open sky and just enough quiet. Now all we have to do is add in James Filkins’ glorious fingerstyle guitar, a dozen Sandhill cranes, and we have it all.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – R J Lannan, ArtisanMusicReviews.com

James Filkins, an acoustic guitarist and composer, describes himself as a ‘sonic wanderer’—an especially apt description of his music on Cranes, his latest CD of acoustic ruminations. His impressionistic music is characterized by lush tones, chiming harmonics, layers of sound, and soulful depth of feeling.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – Céline Keatingminor7th.com

If composition one is anything to go by that journey is going to be a very graceful one, as the following track proudly carries me away with smoothness unbound and an unchained cadence. Unfettered is a really good name for this song, as there is a lush symbiosis of major and minor here that creates a simple yet utter beauty.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – Steve SheppardOne World Music Radio

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