Thursday, November 05, 2009
"Love Was Here First" (album review)
Fresh from the blog tour for Andrew Peterson’s recent release of his book I saw an opportunity from Carolyn Arends to review her new CD, “Love Was Here First”. I loved the process so much from the book that I quickly signed up and was given immediate access to the album, artwork and promo materials. So, here goes...
Ever heard of Carolyn Arends? Yeah, she’s probably there in the background somewhere singing “Seize the Day” in 1995. Oh yeah...It’s dawning on you now. Well, she’s still around and has been recording, touring, speaking and writing all this time from her home in British Columbia in Canada.
You may not know much about Canada...most of us south of the border do not. Canada can be easily dismissed as that nice, kinda quirky country up there providing us with maple syrup and hockey players. “I heard it’s real clean...”
Our family sojourned among the Canadians for eight years from 1993 - 2001. Having been previously unfamiliar with (aka ignorant of) Canada, I assumed it would be a lot like the States only...you know...colder. Living there changed me forever. Community awareness, commitment to the marginalized of society, celebration of diversity and respectful discourse flow easily through the fabric of the culture. It is by no means perfect but in so many ways, Canada has a lot of depth, quieter insight and wisdom to offer us here in the land of rugged individualism.
Carolyn’s music is a lot like Canada. It would be easy to dismiss to the background. She has a nice, innocent sounding voice that does not reach out and grab you and make you listen. Her music is based in roots disciplines...acoustic guitars, mandolins with ambient electric layers. Her melodies and themes are simple. But listen again...
This album, “Love Was Here First” is full of songs that easily play as the background of where I am at in my journey. The busiest song on the album is the first one and ironically named “Be Still”. I started listening while cleaning off my desk covered with late bills and projects left ignored (including this review). This song flowed into Arend’s haunting, heart cry rendition of an old song “Standing In the Need of Prayer”...during this I was sorting through a pile of stress looking for an important something that I’d lost.
On to the anthem, “My Favorite Lie” and as I’m still trying to frantically figure out my mismanaged life, Arends sings “I am a pilgrim on a dead end road who refuses to go in a new direction...” Ok, I get it. I’ll stop and listen.
Now that I’m paying attention and ready to receive what I need to hear from this album comes the hopeful “Something Out Of Us”
...you made cosmos out of chaos, you made Adam out of dust, you made wine out of water, you’ll make something out of us...
And the album goes on with songs of hope, songs about what’s real, songs about Jesus, songs about surrender. My favorite line and the heart of the collection is from “The Last Word” which inspired the album title, “That day in the garden could not erase, all that was started with original grace, and though we have wandered, we will know if we search, Love was here first.”
Musically it’s well done and you can hear Carolyn and crew having fun playing this music. A few songs have horns that brighten and bring gravity to the tracks...I especially liked them on the last song “Never Say Goodbye”. The production gets a little busy on a few tracks...Arends is best being a folk artist singing hope. A couple of times, the atmosphere bends toward rock and blues which doesn’t work as well for me as when the music and Arends voice is being straight forward.
I would highly recommend this work. It is not a loose collection of songs but flows on the currents of the best themes that can be sung or written about.
Find out more about Carolyn Arends and listen to some of the tracks from “Love Was Here First” at her website... http://www.carolynarends.com/
The album is available for purchase here... http://feedthelake.com/