Carolyn Arends “Just Getting Started: An Acoustic Reflection on 20 Years of Music” Album Review

Carolyn Arends

Prime Cuts:  Just Getting Started, In Good Hands, Something to Give

In a recent interview with Hallels, Arends said there are two kinds of singers: the first are the Levites.  Biblically, they are the ones responsible for the worship of God for all of Israel.  In today's vernacular, they would be our equivalent of Hillsong Worship, Bethel Music, Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman and the like, artists given over to serving the church in her corporate worship.  Then, there are the prophets; they are the ones called to speak God's profound truth to our society.  Arends finds herself in the latter category.  Her songs are not made to facilitate the singing of the masses, yet they often contain such acerbic messages that they appeal to the average plebeian in stunning and life-transforming ways.  Over the last 20 years over 11 studio albums, Arends has had proved that she not only has a way with words but she can craft melodies that are prophetic --- melodies that sing and sting. 

"Just Getting Started: An Acoustic Reflection on 20 Years of Music" is a landmark album in Arends' richly storied career.  Featuring 11 re-imagined makeovers of songs she has had released, the album also features one brand new song, the title cut "Just Getting Started."  However, this is far from your typical retrospective compilation.  Rather, the 11 re-cuts were lovingly voted on by her legion of fans.  This means they are not necessary her biggest hits or her radio singles.  Rather, what you get here is a wide smorgasbord of tracks that range from her debut album for Reunion Records "I Can Hear You" in 1995 all the way to 2009's "Love Was Here First."  Ardent fans are thus happy to know that some of her lesser known gems from her later works now lie side by side with some of her biggest charting hits such as "Seize the Day" and "Happy."

While many artists put out their best foot with their first couple of releases, Arends has saved the best for now.  The title cut "Just Getting Started" is easily Arends' best song yet.  With an infectious melody augmented by a warm guitar accoutrements, "Just Getting Started" is a stellar treatise of how eternity affects how the way we live now.  "Seize the Day" explains why Arends is such a darling in Christian music.  Never one to just linger on platitudes, "Seize the Day" proliferates with heartfelt narratives. From how a doctor leaves a 6-digit salary to serve as a missionary to how a girl abandons her fears in order to pursue her dreams of being an author, "Seize the Day" teaches us what it means to live out for God.  Further, songs such as "Happy," "Do We Dare," and "In Between" not only thrives on Arends' attention paid to details, but they often present truths that are unconventional, provoking, thoughtful, and deeply personal. 

Although this is not a congregational worship record per sec, but lots of worshipful moments abound.  With copious examples garnered from the Gospels of how Jesus uses his hands to dispense His grace, we can't help but worship after hearing the string-laden "In Good Hands." "Under the Gaze," with its unusual chord progression, is another worship-inducing ballad that will get us thanking God for his providence.  While many acoustic folk-based albums can fall into some soporific moments, Arends is careful to mix up the tempo a little with the lilting "Something to Give." The country-flavored backings are so delightful that it will get our feet dancing in no time.  Don't miss "The Last Word;" here Arends is at her vocal best as she belts with an understated passion how Christ's love will ultimately prevail in the eschaton.

Fans who have faithfully followed Arends' career will be delighted to walk down memory lane again with these gems albeit performed with a more matured nuance and a less cluttered backing.  Newer adherents will certainly be awed by the songs' the stark honesty and acerbic depths.

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