Women holding strong at Kari Arnett’s CD release at the Cedar Cultural Center

I am a sucker for a strong voice belting out a twangy-angry anthem, especially on women’s rights. So hearing Kari Arnett sing Only a Woman at the Cedar on Thursday was a highlight. She wrote the song in reaction to how some men talk to women in the music industry – and get away with it. It’s unfortunately both a timely and timeless theme. I loved the music as well – especially toward the end of the song, there was a melee of tunes and sounds coming from each corner of the stage, filled with seven musicians. It was like listening to an interesting conversation – disassociated but complimentary and compelling.

Arnett’s music is country but there’s a range of country in it. She opened with Dark Water, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac – in the best way. It has the same slow beat of The Chain. (Funny enough, the only cover Arnett played was another Fleetwood Mac song.) You can hear the influence of the band and the era when there was a cross over between country and rock, especially the rock ballad. Then The Americana Life has a very Western feel. Starting with sounds of languor from the steel pedal, the horse’s gallop in the drums, the plaintive violin and then the voice. The big, bold voice that carries the song from a hot summer day to some musical victory. There’s a sense of accomplishment just listening. Tired of This Town has a completely different sound; remorse and reverence turns to church choral with the harmony of vocals. It’s a twist to have a lovelorn song have such a sweet sound.

It will be fun to watch Arnett’s move forward. The new CD, When the Dust Settles is a terrific start. Unfortunately we’ll be watching it from a distance as she is soon moving to Nashville. Before she left she gave a gracious nod to the Minnesota Music Coalition for helping her get connected when she first moved to the Cities a few years ago.

Bonus of the night was having three women take center stage. Mary Bue started off the night. She played a new song, All the Things Broken. The power of the keyboard, her honest lyrics of heartbreak and the seemingly easy comfort of her voice can bring tears every time. Next was Becky Kapell with Paul Bergen, playing country music like I’ve heard on road trips with my dad my whole life. She can hit and hold a high note and bend it into any shape she wants.

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