by Kevin Burton
Anything Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” evokes, high hopes, lost youth, regrets, the poetry of the everyday, Carolyn Arends matches with her song “Seize The Day.”
And, with “Seize The Day,” instead of forgetting about life for a while, you come away with encouragement to make things better.
The fact that both tunes are written in three quarter time makes the comparison even more irresistible.
This is my 15th album challenge post. Today I focus on the terrific set “I Can Hear You” by Canadian singer/songwriter Carolyn Arends.
With this post we move to records that influenced me when I was sort of young, not really young, just sort of. The time when I could be easily mistaken for a young person, without actually being one.
Including “Seize The Day” there are seven absolute gems on this record by my estimation. The other four songs are not bad either.
I’ve written favorably about artists such as Evie, The Imperials and Christine Wyrtzen who have the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ front and center in their lyrics. You can’t listen to their songs for half a minute without getting the message.
Carolyn Arends uses a different approach, I think to great effect. You need to know that she is a Christian artist to understand her lyrics. Once you know that you can appreciate a set that will remind you of Simon and Garfunkel at their insightful best.
She writes about real life, real people, real feelings and a real God who loves us. She does so with the touch of a painter, leaving us with word pictures that soothe the heart.
“I try to tell it like I see it and see what happens,” Arends told William Schaaff in a February interview on the Classic Christian Rock Radio Podcast.
Arends has been called “The Dr. Seuss of Christian songwriters” because she loves rhymes so much. But her observations are much weightier.
Her themes on this set are seizing opportunity, enjoying the small things in life and watching and listening for God’s hand in every part of life.
Other themes include surrendering to God’s will. From “What I wouldn’t Give,” the chorus, “What I wouldn’t give to be younger and wiser, what I wouldn’t give to be yours once more. What I wouldn’t give to be less of a miser and give you what I wouldn’t give before.”
On God’s mercy and love, from “Love Is Always There” she writes, “There is no such things as a God-forsaken town, ‘cause there are always second chances.”
“This is the stuff” is a song about childhood memories that reminds us “Life goes by like a big old bus. If you miss it it’s history.”Humility is the message in “The Altar Of Ego.”
One of my biggest disappointments as a consumer of music was the follow-up album to “I Can Hear You.” It was marketed in the Columbia House magazine as having “a harder edge.”
My heart sank. Most of the world is going for the “harder edge” because they don’t have anything to say worth hearing over the blaring guitars. From Carolyn Arends I didn’t need or want that.
Consider for example, “Reaching,” a song you might overlook because it is not as catchy as some of the others. It takes us back to childhood and a time when she was “trying to reach the stars and the cookie jar and both were out of reach.”
Before the song ends we learn that we never stop reaching in life. She seems to prod us to discover that whether we know it or not, God is who we should be reaching for.
“We are reaching for the future, we are reaching for the past, and no matter what we have we reach for more. We are desperate to discover what is just beyond our grasp. Maybe that’s what heaven is for.”
On the podcast she encouraged people to “lean in and listen to God.”
“God is crazier about us I think than we can begin to imagine,” Arends said. “He’s making overtures to us in the music we listen to and the conversations we have in every possible way.”