David Arn is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Ohio originally, but now based in Virginia. After releasing his first album to acclaim, this second album is set for release at the beginning of February, 2015 . His music is mostly acoustic and strongly lyric driven, allowing his words to be clearly delivered with a warm, gravelly voice that sounds full of experience. You can hear the influences of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and the sophisticated lyrics of Van Dyke Parks and Randy Newman, though his style is very much his own.
Throughout the album the idea of dreams or dreaming as a way of transcending life’s troubles becomes a recurring theme, and the music often has a dreamlike or tranquil quality to it. This is most obviously encapsulated on the title track and album opener Walking To Dreamland. Over a stately beat and bluesy piano sound, the lyrics have a world weariness: “Startin’ to see no end to the working day…..I’m walking to dreamland, not five miles gone“.
Second track Better Off Today is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, with an instantly memorable vocal melody that would make it a good choice for a single. Lyrically, there are some lovely lines and evocative imagery: “She held a candle to the shoreline…illusions of fulfilment would not be washed away….”. Even In A Town Of Seven Churches (Odds Are Even) certainly has a dreamy, meditative quality, the mood throughout mellow and wistful. Musically, it is embellished with some lovely flourishes of violin from Charlie Austin.
Next track Real Time is a lovely jazz-tinged song augmented by Arn’s gifted musical cohorts, this one featuring some gorgeous bluesy acoustic guitar and piano, then later on brass and saxophone. Lyrically, it’s a love song, but with no hint of cliché, the hook simple and touching: “You change my world into real time…”. Another potential single. When You Lost Your Situation is my personal favourite on the album, a vibrant slice of hard hitting blues that recalls the more rocking moments of Tom Waits (say Big Black Mariah from Rain Dogs). Throughout, it features some stellar lead guitar work from Raz Ben Ari, and Arn delivers a great vocal performance.
Rosalina’s Music (Nexus Chokehold) brings back the dreamy pace, richly coloured by accordion and violin, while Hungry Kisses makes use of some unusual and inventive percussion. It features the great line “I cut my losses, but they grew back….”. Something More Between Us has a laid-back folk/country vibe with fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and beautiful female high backing vocals on the hook: “Dreams, sweet dreams, always looking for possibility…”. The Last Word brings us back musically to the title track, lyrically another love song, with the poetic hook “You are the free bird, you get the last word….come in and rest your wings…”.
Water Lilies closes the album and, suitably, it is perhaps the most other-worldly sounding and modern song here, sonically conjuring the ‘dreamland’ of the album title, with use of spectral synths towards the end. The final words on the album are “We drift away….” and then the music takes over, fading out in a hazy, blissful reverie.
Overall this is a classy and sophisticated album, beautifully crafted, both lyrically and musically. It certainly rewards close listening and is highly enjoyable from start to finish. When much of mainstream music is seemingly more reductive and vulgar than ever before, it is gratifying to know there are artists still devoted to the art of songwriting and who have become highly accomplished at their craft. With Walking To Dreamland, David Arn has given us an excellent example of this.
Verdict: 9 out of 10