If Jamie Barnes'The Recalibrated Heart is spiritual and introspective, After the Rain from the band Arnett Hollow is more secular and communal, with a sound that is much the same as Heart: easygoing and relaxed, with a couple of exceptions.
Be forewarned: listening to this release through headphones or ear buds while reclining on any kind of soft furniture will cause you to fall deep into a trance, the kind where you feel someone has just uncorked a hole in your psyche you didn't know you had. And a lot of the stressors, anxieties, petty annoyances, defenses, stuff that holds you to impossible schedules or binds you to people you force yourself to get along with, all just leak out a little at a time. You're left open and vulnerable. The music just slips inside. And you let yourself go.
Arnett Hollow takes traditional bluegrass instrumentation and folds the traditional high-lonesome sound inside out. By adding drums, the band brings a pinch of pop to their music. And, taken together, all the songs make After the Rain almost a travelogue, with lots of lyrics about streams and roads. It's all about direction and destination - places we'd like to go and places we need to go.
Some remarkable pieces include "Carnival," with a foot-tapping energy that makes you think you're walking on trampled grass, hearing the mechanical whine of rides and clank of metal as their latches close, smelling fried dough and grilled meat. On the lengthy "Open My Eyes," a banjo plays a variation of the triplet theme in Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," before the entire piece segues into a rapid klezmer dance tune and ends up in a full bluegrass jam. It is followed, appropriately, by "Slow Down."
In her 1962 article "The Fiction Writer and His Country," Flannery O'Connor wrote, "I have heard it said that belief in Christian dogma is a hindrance to the writer, but I myself have found nothing further from the truth. Actually, it frees the storyteller to observe. It is not a set of rules that fixes what he sees in the world. It affects his writing primarily by guaranteeing his respect for mystery."
This release seems to follow O'Connor's own ideas about what allows storytellers and, by extension, songwriters and musicians the freedom to observe, which guarantees respect for mystery.
Let After the Rain take you into it.
Find out more about Arnett Hollow at www.arnetthollow.com.