On Thursday, September 20th, The Cedar Cultural Center of Minneapolis, Minn. hosted Kari Arnett, alongside Mary Bue and Becky Kapell, for a night of pure Indie/Country/Americana gold. It was a well-deserved recognition and celebration of the Americana Singer/Songwriter Arnett’s latest creation, a full-length album titled When the Dust Settles, out now.
Arnett, who grew up in Wisconsin listening to the likes of Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie Nicks, moved to Minneapolis in 2014 and soon after released her first studio recording EP, Midwestern Skyline.
The album received praise from American Songwriter and other music critics locally and nationally, and set the stage for her to become one of Minnesota’s most well-known Americana musicians. Since then, Arnett has performed with Chastity Brown, Paul Thorn, Laney Jones and many others, and has played at venues and festivals across the Midwest.
Arnett’s music has evolved with her tastes. If Midwestern Skyline was a look at her world then, with tracks like “Heavy Heart” and “When We Were Young” speaking to a coming of age through love and loss, When the Dust Settles is a coming to reality and setting things straight.
Part rock, part country, part Americana, When the Dust Settles has eleven tracks, including “Dark Water”, which kicks off the album with strong vocals and eerie reverberation.
In the darkness you can see forever
don’t let it drag you down.
When the waters get too heavy
don’t let it sink you down
Other songs like “Blood Bones” and “This American Life” bring listeners lyrics with political undertones. It’s Arnett’s somber look at the current political climate, which she hopes we will one day, “get right”. It’s an album built on Arnett’s personal journey: an authentic reflection that is in some parts bitter, yet wholly raw and authentic.
“[It’s about] the messy, broken parts that no one puts out there,” Arnett said of the album. “I wanted to be honest in my delivery of these songs. The truth is – no one’s life is perfect. [Life] can be hard sometimes, and I wanted to make an album where I could be real.”
Arnett said she really wanted to work with those who would understand the lyrics and the emotions behind them. So she partnered with many well-known industry professionals on the album, including a full band of local musicians and producer and engineer Danny O’Brien, who Arnett said she really came to trust with her songs.
It’s true the album carries a burden of emotional weight. The closing track of the album, “When You Were Mine”, is perhaps Arnett’s most emotional, personal song yet. And “Only a Woman”, which has become a stand-out song on the album, presents what being a woman is like amidst political scandal and within the music industry.
“Being a woman in the industry is hard,” Arnett said. “We have to work a little harder at everything. I have had to grow some tough skin… You just gotta keep talking. Tune out the noise. Be yourself. Keep working. Keep showing up, and the right people will come along.”
The album has obtained praise from No Depression, Wide Open Country, Americana Highways and City Pages. Highway Queens wrote in a recent article, “Arnett’s intelligent, optimistic and heartfelt songwriting makes listening to this album a real treat from start to finish.”
Arnett said she couldn’t have made the album all that it is without the support of her fans and the local community, noting that the MN Music Coalition helped her tremendously along her journey, as have those who supported her via her Kickstarter campaign, which she launched to help her fund the album. (When the Dust Settles was 100 percent funded through Kickstarter.) It was a new venture for Arnett – but a successful one.
“I just hope folks who listen to it can relate to it in some way,” Arnett said. “I want them to let their heart guide them when they listen.”
Photos are by: Chad Cochran
With Midwestern roots and Music City dreams (Arnett will be moving to Nashville next Spring to continue learning and growing her music career), When the Dust Settles shows listeners a deeper side of Arnett: one that has battled pain and loss, but is better from it.
It is Arnett’s first full length album, but clearly it is only the beginning of her story.