Archive for the Jennie Arnau Category

Jennie Arnau: Chasing Ghosts

Posted in Jennie Arnau on March 23, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I get a lot of CDs sent to me in the mail… usually two or three each week. When those discs come in, they generally go into one of two stacks.

Stack A is for the projects from artists I know and that I’m excited about listening to. Stack B is for artists that I haven’t heard before and know nothing about. Stack A goes straight into iTunes and onto my iPod. Stack B gets set aside, and I try to listen to them when I get the chance.
Occasionally, a disc from Stack B can jump into Stack A if it grabs me in a certain way. The easiest way to do this is for the disc to contain a guest shot from an artist that I do know and respect. Jennie Arneau’s new release, Chasing Giants (a B stacker), certainly has that going for it. Jennie enlists the talents of moe. guitarist Al Schnier to play mandolin and guitar on two tracks, and Noam Pickelny of The Punch Brothers and Leftover Salmon plays banjo throughout. Throw in production work from Trina Shoemaker (Over the Rhine, Shannon McNally, Sheryl Crow), and I was more than intrigued by the assembled cast.
The other way to jump stacks is to have a visually stimulating cover image that grabs me immediately and makes me want to know what’s going on inside. The cartoon image of the little cowboy and cowgirl staring down the giants with their six-shooters was too much for me to pass up.
The disc had the goods to jump into the A stack… but it wouldn’t stay there long if the music didn’t grab me as well.
Jennie’s newest album blends the southern stylings of her South Carolina roots with the big city polish of her current New York City home. The album opening, “For the Winter,” kicks off with a Vienna Teng or Norah Jones style piano/guitar pairing laced with politeness and restraint. It isn’t long, however, before the banjo and fiddle kick in to give the tune a personality of its own and reveal the track’s rootsier heart.
Those styles are played against each other throughout the album. The pop leaning “Bouncing Ball” is laced with subtle banjo fills from Pickelny, while “Beautiful Life” switches from mournful country to sunny pop from verse to chorus. Those tunes are then contrasted with the straight up R&B of “The Sparrow & The Gods” and the gentle folk of “Jack Be Nimble.”
Overall, the two styles meld very well, even if the album does come off as more demure than dynamic in places. Still, Jennie Arnau now has my attention. Her next offering will go straight into stack A… even if it’s a total solo effort in with a plain brown cover.
Jennie Arnau: For the Winter (Buy Album)