It’s another cold and snowy night up here in Minnesota and without a show that seemed worth me losing my prime parking spot at my apartment, I felt it would be a good night to check out another album submitted to me for review. I reached into the box that sits on my desk full of dozens of albums, closed my eyes, and pulled out Kari Arnett’s “When the Dust Settles”. To say it was the perfect album for this cold and snowy night would be an understatement.
You instantly feel a sense of darkness yet compassion as the album kicks in with “Dark Water”. Kari’s distinct southern drawl voice wastes no time in bringing a much needed hug to you. While still keeping with this sense of darkness and pain, there’s somehow this since of comfort and warmth. When Kari’s voice is joined by that of Haley Rydell (who also plays the fiddle on this song and “When The Dust Settles” it’s instantly makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. This opener definitely sets the mood for the rest of the album. The darkness of the song is highlighted by moments of joy and exhilaration and you just know that there is so much more to come from this very talented woman.
“Blood and Bones” starts with just a simple kick drum and snare pattern that draws you in close before Kari’s voice takes over. The darkness from “Dark Water” seems to be replaced by this almost child-like sadness that everyone tries to hide but we all have it in us. Sweet and somber with lyrics about love and love lost, this is one of those songs that, even if you’re just hearing it for the first time, it can easily make you eyes swell up with tears. Those tears are instantly swapped out for a feeling of hope as the album jumps into “One More Chance”. Although still keeping with the though-provoking and feeling-inducing lyrics, there’s a brightness to this song. Kari’s vocals reign supreme through this song. With an image of her on the front cover, it’s super easy to find yourself lost in a daydream where you are in a cute little wine bar lit with nothing more than candles and her standing on the stage while you chat with a first date or just sit there contently drinking some wine. The calming effect of this song alone is truly amazing.
The piano that kicks off “This American Life” is something that instantly hooked me. Being a piano player, I always seem to find myself drawn to the key parts but, beyond that, there’s just something hauntingly beautiful about how that’s the way this song kicks off. The piano is quickly replaced in the spotlight by the thump of a bass drum that keeps the beat throughout the song as Kari’s voice dances above the beautiful and sparse instrumentation. More upbeat than the previous songs, “This American Life” is a gem on this album and shows a side of Kari that deserves to shine bright.
“Breaking Is Easy” goes back to the somber Kari that was introduced at the beginning of the album but her voice comes off as less tortured and more sweet and soft. Don’t be fooled though. The song kicks off with the lyrics of “Some days you want to live. Some days you want to die.” I love the way her devastatingly beautiful lyrics seems to juxtapose the carefree-ness of the music, beat and her tone. Although slower and a bit more emotional, the same can be said about “Starting Over”. Kari’s voice comes off as so beautiful but the lyrics are less than happy and beautiful. That being said, they aren’t dramatic. All of the lyrics on this album are far too easy to relate to no matter where you’re at in your life.
By the end of “Starting Over”, Kari has you stuck in this dream land where candles provide the light and wine is much sweeter than it should be. That changes the second “When the Dust Settles” kicks in. With a very Tennessee country vibe to it, this is a truly rocking song compared to the rest. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still cohesive to the album and although it stands out, it stands out for all the right reasons. I feel like every song shows off a different talent of Kari’s (and the other musicians for that matter) but this song definitely stands out a bit more. Her voice stays smooth and clear but has this new sense of aggression that had yet to be seen on this album. But, just like that, that aggression is replaced by that calming hug that greeted you at the beginning of this album as she jumps into “Tired of This Town”. The strumming guitar is flawlessly replaced with a pedal steel guitar and the booming bass drum turns into the soft hit of a snare drum. Talk about riding a wave while listening to an album.
Just as Kari has you back in that dreamland, the album goes to track nine, “Only A Woman”. Although not as rock n’ roll as “When The Dust Settles”, the stomping drums create this driving force behind this track that makes it seem much more upbeat than other tracks on the album. Although you can feel the passion in Kari’s voice throughout this album, something about the way it comes across during this track will give you goosebumps. Every word is attacked with a sense of conviction that typically only comes across when performed live. To capture that in an album is truly impressive.
“The War” is another track on this album that can instantly bring tears to your eyes for no apparent reason other than the blatant beauty behind the music and lyrics. I dare you to try and listen to this song without getting emotional or at least getting hit right in the feels. At around five and a half minutes long, “The War” is truly a journey not just because of the lyrics but because of the waves that Kari’s voice and instrumentation that hit you in perfect time.
The album closes out with the beautiful “When You Were Mine”. Like the rest of this album, there’s no ignoring the beauty behind Kari’s voice and the realness behind her lyrics. The perfect closer, it’s upbeat enough to make you want to go back to the beginning and start the journey all over again but also calming enough to make for the perfect closing track. I myself chose to start the journey again, and again, and again…
Kari Arnett has an absolutely stunning voice and the musicians on this album are truly beyond talented. It’s just a matter of time before she’s a household name and I am very honored to have caught her on her way up.
My Favorite Track(s): “This American Life”; “The War”
Chances Of Getting A Noise Complaint While Listening To In An Apartment: 3 out of 10
Daydream-ability: 9 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artemis laid right by my computer; Autumn slept on my clean laundry I was too lazy to fold
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 8.1 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5
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