I first became acquainted with Carolyn Arends’ music when she released her debut, I Can Hear You, in 1995; that one was a nice acoustic pop gem that didn’t leave my CD player for a while. She added some rock sounds for 1997’s Feel Free, one of my favorite albums of the 90’s. After that, I sort of lost touch with her…until the advent of Twitter. Through her Twitter account, I discovered that she was working on a new album. It’s called Love Was Here First, and it’s a worthy successor to the albums of hers that I loved back then (and still love today).
Much of Love Was Here First consists of songs that are well within Carolyn’s wheelhouse: classic folk-pop gems. Songs like “Nothing Can Separate” and “Willing” are well-written and nicely produced, and they’re exactly what you’d expect from her…consistent and satisfying. “Never Say Goodbye” reminds us that Jesus never bid His followers goodbye, while “My Favourite Lie” adds a more traditional-folk twist. “I Am A Soul” contains one of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a long time: “I have a body/I am a soul.”
There are a few surprises on Love Was Here First as well. The opening track, “Be Still,” has a cool, Burt Bacharach-style retro vibe. “The Last Word” is a nice, Beatlesque ballad with a particularly strong, resonant lyric. (In fact, Carolyn’s solid lyrics have as much to do with the success of the songs as the musicianship and production values do.) “According To Plan” has an appealing country feel to it, while “Something Out Of Us” brings some New Orleans jazz stylings to the table (with a feel reminiscent of Over The Rhine’s The Trumpet Child album).
There are a couple of missteps on the album… Carolyn’s version of the gospel standard “Standing In The Need Of Prayer” is plodding and awkward, while “Roll It” is a gospel-blues number that borders on cuteness far too much. But moments like those are few and far between.
Carolyn’s vocals are strong as always, and the arrangements, production, and instrumentation are solid. All in all, Love Was Here First is a terrific album and a worthy addition to Carolyn Arends’ career. (Buy it; you’ll be glad you did…) Love Was Here First releases October 20; for more details, check out www.carolynarends.com, or to buy it directly from Carolyn’s store, visit www.feedthelake.com. (There’s also a behind-the-scenes blog about the recording process at http://lwhf.blogspot.com, if you’re interested…)