19 Aug 2019
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Holly Arrowsmith - Album Review: A Dawn I Remember

10 Jul 2018 // A review by Trevor Faville
Sometimes it’s good to approach writing a review for a new collection of music by listening to the music first, before reading any of the attendant press, and reviewer info. That way you listen to what you are hearing as opposed to what you are expecting. This proved rewarding for this release for a number of reasons.

Holly Arrowsmith reveals the main colours of her palette over the first couple of songs-Strummed acoustic guitar, breathy soprano vocals (with frequent skips into falsetto head-voice) carefully and intimately recorded. Fans of Emmylou Harris will certainly resonate with this. From here what happens is a gradually enfolding exposition of a creative artist who has really hit a peak. This collection of songs quite literally unfolds from piece to piece. Extra layers of instrumentation are carefully-so carefully-sprinkled over key points, and every song leads to the next, with no sense of rush but a very clear sense of direction.

So, there is an almost-narrative structure, and Arrowsmith uses this approach with real skill. There are cleverly alternating keys, meters and timbres which introduce variation in a way to balance slower tempo and quieter dynamics.  As the album progresses, the songs build in intensity, peaking with the final two songs Autumn and Slow Train Creek -songs which (gently) echo the instrumental flavours of Billy Bragg and Glen Hansard respectively. Powerful, evocative music that is confident enough not to feel any need to overstate itself. Witness the point in Slow Train Creek where the strings kick in and then diminuendo away by the end of that same chorus, leading to the plaintive final solo vocal phrase "return to me". It's a wonderfully effective (and affecting) way to end an album.

Lyrically, Arrowsmith has a way of being observational without being strident, and introspective without being narcissistic. Her words are not wasted, and she understands the power of a lyric wedded to a strong melody. A quick dive mid-album reveals an easy source - try Love Together for lyrical economy. Frequently too, Arrowsmith employs a kind of ‘final word’ technique with brief vocal codas at the end of a song-leaving the listener with some consecutive end phrases - “I am hopeful” “mostly they’ll teach us” “so much beauty I could cry” “let a little sorrow go” “return to me” - giving subtle emphasis to the not-quite-story-arc.

This is by far Holly Arrowsmith's best work to date. She has crafted an evocative ’big sky’ album that acknowledges and honours its influences without wasting too much time being reverential. Over this whole collection there is a fine musical sensibility, with melodic and lyrical strength, sensitive and intelligent arrangement /production, and clear creative vision. It is music that draws you back for another listen and offers fresh reward every time.


Review written by Trevor Faville
 

About Holly Arrowsmith

"This is the kind of C&W meets folk that strips everything but the honesty away, and what your left with will leave you trembling."
-Scott Kennedy (The Source)

Holly Arrowsmith is the new name in Folk that could be worth keeping your eye on. This South Island songstress has been turning heads all over New Zealand lately- and rumour has it, there is something different stirring in her acoustically driven, soulful sound. Arrowsmith's poetic, thought provoking lyrics, combined with her distinctively haunting voice, give you something pretty special, according to 'The Source'.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Holly Arrowsmith

Releases

A Dawn I Remember
Year: 2018
Type: Album
For The Weary Traveller
Year: 2015
Type: Album
The River
Year: 2013
Type: EP

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