What the Mirror Said
Review of "What the Mirror Said" By Frank Rivera c) 2007 'Look at you, look at you dreaming,' opens Arem on her debut album What the Mirror Said. That stanza sets down the feel for an impressive freshman effort from a battle-hardened veteran of the Northeastern folk scene. And yet the most characteristic element of Arem's music is it's continual refutation of easy classification. Sure, Arem's dulcet tones are in part the calmly harmonious folk of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a music refined with performances at the famed Saratoga Springs haunt Caffe Lena and directly influenced by the likes of Woody Guthrie to Joan Baez. Yet it is not the bass guitar which provides the backbeat to Arem's opening song but the metronomic intonation of a beatboxer. The blending of hip-hop and folk is not a fusion to be avoided, at least not under Arem's adept fingers. Nothing could be more American, and, if anything, Arem's music is a love letter to Americana. That 'you' whose dreams she's watching is none other than 20th century icon of American idealism Jack Kerouac. It is the first of many references-music and lyric, intended and perhaps subconscious-that knits her music into what it is: a celebration of those that inspire her and the adventure of a young songwriter's quest for identity. What the Mirror Said couldn't be a more appropriate title, for the introspection it implies. It is a quality that typifies Arem's music. As a native Marylander, her music is neither wholly the folk of the North nor Southern country but is instead an amalgamation of the two. She cleverly uses a country twang to play up the rustic qualities of 'Juarez'. On the other hand, 'Serenade at Midnight' evokes Canadian Joni Mitchell's serene contemplations. While there is admirable work in her lyricism and musical arrangements, the real strength pushing her music to another level is without question her voice. This is a voice of a woman who, while she may not know her place in the world, is comfortable finding her way through it. There are rich, earthy tones that calm and soothe and that reveal her training, her simple passion. She's playful, too, letting the cadence and meter of her voice wrap and jump on notes like a spoken word poet; a sense of vocal improvisation that doesn't seem to take away from the purity of her voice. While it is clear that this is still the opera prima of a new artist, the potential is clear. Arem established the groundwork for future efforts that will hopefully follow a similar channel. Her talent is evident and her desire is clear; future projects will only encourage a maturation of a natural singer-songwriter. She asks, 'What could I say that hasn't been said in some play or sung in some song?' after realizing all that Kerouac and Arem's influences have accomplished. Well, my dear, you can apparently say and sing a great deal. * * * QUOTES: 'Arem's debut studio release greets us with all the freshness and promise of a new voice on the scene, but evidently someone who has been honing her craft for years....Well worth the wait, this album displays Arem's exquisite musical ability, intellect and literary sensibilities.' -Shana Scudder, The Feminist Review 'Not just 'another girl with a guitar', Jocelyn stands out from the crowd. With her rich, velvety voice and top-notch songwriting, this woman is at the top of my playlist. Jocelyn demonstrates an exceptional ability, and her activism and commitment to music are stellar.' -Karen Olch, Acoustic Junction, KRVM-FM, Eugene, Oregon 'It was Jocelyn's sweet voice that really got my attention. The sincerity of her words and her dedication to being a great songwriter I believe will win her an audience of true dedication. I am one of those fans present and future.' -SONIA (Disappear Fear) 'Beautiful music! You have an awesome voice.' -Jeffrey Huang, Pilobolus Dance Theater 'A voice sweet and low yet deep and real; songs like 'Guthrie's Lament' strike you right in the soul. Reminiscent of popular contemporaries Ani DiFranco and Fiona Apple, Jocelyn Arem brings another earthy 'something' to her music that is harder and harder to find these days. I can easily close my eyes when listening to 'What the Mirror Said' and pretend I'm in a different time, when folk songs were anthems and we all cared about the world around us.' -Zhenelle Fish, Producer, WHMT TV: Educational Telecommunications.