It’s hard to define an Iowa sound exactly, but Nic Arp has it, inexactly: not quite country music, but folksy; not exactly rock & roll, but with the occasional snarly electric guitar line. I hear echoes of 1970s Iowa folk artists like Bonnie Koloc and Freeman and Lange, but Arp has an unusual voice, with some of Elvis Costello’s timbral quirks–he goes from growly to nasal in two syllables.
The band Arp has assembled for Tiny Wings, as recorded by John Svec, serve his songs well. Tara McGovern’s violin on the song “Tiny Wings” underscore his melodies, swelling in the space between words. The more rocking songs, like “One Simple Song,” have a propulsive drive to them, bringing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to mind.
Arp delivers his lyrics with confidence and relaxed phrasing. He can be clever, as on “Your Mind Is On Vacation” when he sings “If silence is golden, your voice could raise the dying.” But the cleverness seems rather shallow. He can write a good melody, and he has the voice to execute pretty much any sentiment, but he seems to shy away from anything too emotionally raw.
I should maybe give him a pass, though, as the reason I notice Arp’s lyrics at all is because his diction is impeccable. A lot of singers will mumble, or push their singing down in the mix, and if the music is compelling, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying at all. Arp’s singing is the opposite of that. I want him to dig deeper for the emotion and meaning I know he is capable of conveying as a composer and singer. Tiny Wings deserves an audience; anyone who enjoys singers like Greg Brown or Sam Knutson will find plenty to like here. And, like his song title says, “he’s a good guy.” That, and his talent as a singer, make this album a satisfying listen.
Kent Williams thinks we should tax all foreigners living abroad.