Ear Candy for the Soul is a 12-song CD by Arlene Wow! and Dana Takaki that lives up to its name.
Strings meld seamlessly — whether its rhythmic accents from Dana on violin punctuating Arlene’s syncopated guitar strum on “Breathe” or the stretched out strains of violin sustaining a Melissa Etheridge-like anthem about the anguish of losing a lover in “Wrong Side.”
Arlene has recorded a couple of the songs on this CD before, without the elegant underpinning of Dana’s violin. The addition is at once striking and subtle, here a wail, there an echo, and pulling out just shy of any exclamation, staying pleasantly in the background with Arlene’s guitar. In those songs, and others, that violin lets the voice lift words into a happy place, and “leave the ghosts of the weary world outside/ ’til it feels like spring,” as in the song,”‘Til It Feels Like Spring.”
It’s not always the case that I get to review a CD by people I know well. But with these two I can safely say there is a reservoir of joy and vitality that informs their individual personalities and union as artists. That, in turn, infuses the work — if you could call it work! — effortlessly.
A word about the words: they explore tension and trouble, but avoid desperation, embracing instead understanding and passion, preferring to point to “something to live for.”
The two Spanish songs, “Cielo” and “Si No Me Quieres” — the former rousing, the latter soothing — speak to the soul, leaving translation for us non-Spanish speaking people to the imagination.
Of all the tracks, two share a quality at once universal and existential.
In “Train Song,” Arlene croons softly as the haunting finger-picked theme cedes to the rumble of a real train, leaving us in the “stillness of the night,” in another dimension, alone through life’s passage, though you can still hear her sing.
In “Lullaby,” the gift is both maternal and metaphorical: a song embracing the promise of sleep-time and heaven as home, tomorrow but a thought away, love a promise kept.
And a word about the voice: it is everything that a true virtuoso possesses: power, dynamism, range, and tenderness — whether the message is about overcoming angst or offering the human heart for inspection.
“When you look in my heart, Do you see something there?” Arlene asks in the song, “When You Look In My Heart.” “Something you need to find ….”
Yes, Arlene and Dana: and that something is your music. Thanks for the nourishment.
To quote “Breathe,” it’s “lifting me up.”
Buy “Ear Candy for the Soul” here.