David Arn is not a conventional songwriter. His melodies, prose, and even storylines seem to be drawn from an alternate reality, yet are so familiar that the sit comfortably beside musical names from your memory. There’s a Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash presence inside the music of his album Walking To Dreamland, both in the soft ballad-style of the sounds and the biting edge or his words.
Walking To Dreamland seems like a softer contemporary music album from the first few notes plucked through keys over a light bass guitar riff on songs like Hungry Kisses. Yet, there is more there. Recalling a storytelling design and style of Cash, Arn takes a side road less traveled off the verse-chorus-verse dynamic using a rock-themed bridge to hook the emotions of the song into deeper territory.
Most songwriters attempt to employ genre dynamics to achieve the effect of gripping the listener with something that attaches the music to the ear to get to the mind. David Arn uses a different means of this. Instead of pulsing and intricate instrumental pieces, he weaves a carefully crafted web of thought-provoking lyrical dialogue with an ambient bed of sound. Before you realize that you’re drawn in, the snare has been set and you find yourself hooked.
I was not expecting to be captivated by this music but as soon as I reached the middle of Even In A Town Of Seven Churches, I couldn’t escape. Light and fluttered guitar and strings lure you into a tale of divided families and the pretentious appearances of happiness. Brilliantly crafted songwriting sent me back to relisten again and again, each time drawing something new and more profound from each experience.
Walking To Dreamland isn’t for everyone, however. For music fans who just want glossy and fast-paced fun songs, tracks written just to sell the pop jam will not find anything here worth hanging on to. But I trust that folks interested in boring and bland pop are not interested in much that we have to say on this platform. The rebelliousness of Arn’s songwriting is in his prose and presentation through subtlety and not the outright Nirvana-esque confrontation against authority.
Every song on this album brings to mind something of a different piece of musical greatness. When You Lost Your Situation drives a blues feel of T Bone Burnett’s guitars and Bob Dylan’s storylines. Other standout tracks include a Paul Simon-like Real Time in build and emotive vibrato over a light jazz feel, Water Lillies, and The Last Word with one of the best driving guitar lines seducing you in to an unsuspecting love ballad.
I know I’ve found something worth talking about when each track recalls a different link to a previously enjoyable song or artist, and when I’m drawn to re-listen a second and third time. Arn’s latest album receives a solid 4 stars (out of 5) in songwriting and listener experience, two of the most difficult and under-appreciated qualities for musical artists in an era of infinite musical competition.