Runaway Dorothy - The Arc
Record Label: Astor Music Group
Release Date: June 8, 2009 (original), June 8, 2010 (re-release)
Runaway Dorothy is the nom-de-plume of North Carolina native Dave Parnell. He now resides in New York City. The Arc is his debut album. Runaway Dorothy got a boost earlier this year when Adam Duritz publicly announced that The Arc was one of his favorite albums of the last couple years, causing Astor Music Group to re-release the album.
How is it?
Tremendous. Don't expect bells and whistles here, Parnell is uninterested in that. This is simple heartland rock a la Ryan Adams, Jakob Dylan, Duritz and Petty. Album opener "Caulfield," is rustic and plaintive as Parnelel waxes in his clear
spoken voice about falling asleep drunk on a train, blocking out sunlight and sleeping all day and finding little reason to live. Downtrodden stuff for certain, but not without its collective charms.
A full band is introduced on the steel guitar influenced "Where Did I Go Wrong," a timeless and melancholic ode to love gone south. Evoking traces of The Byrds and The Band, there's little about the song that's worth skipping. Inspired third track, "Abilene," opens with winsome guitars and urgent drums and the disc's first home run chorus. Everything about the song is damn near perfect and its the first of many moments that announce Runaway Dorothy as a band to watch in 2011.
The gnomic "Katherine," is a bustling acoustic ditty that draws more on the verses than that of the music itself. That's not to say it's unappealing, it just doesn't exactly go anywhere. Inspired harmonica in the middle half certainly helps the cause, but that's about all that really needs to be written about "Katherine."
The timeless "A Lot of Love," is undoubtedly the disc's centerpiece, a towering, hypnotic and utterly painful declaration of adjusting to solitude. Bolstered by impassioned harmonica, powderkeg drums and driving guitars, it has the kind of oomph and gravitas that artists strive decades to achieve, but never do. That Dave did this on his first full-length attempt should not be ignored.
The meandering "Volatile," is serpentine, hushed and deeply potent, while the deeply resonant "Too Young," is hollow, haunting and undeniably memorable. The rumbling autobiographical "Hard Way Home," is a banjo-fueled excursion down North Carolina's backgrounds and revisits the rustic charm of the disc's earlier tracks. The ruminative "Say," revisits the motif of "Too Young," while penultimate cut "Nights Like These Here," draws on a soft kick drum, pedal steel, banjo and
Parnell's crystalline crooning.
Though the tone isn't nearly as visceral or punchy as "A Lot of Love," there's definitely something deeply affecting about these four minutes. The disc ends with the quiet acoustic prayer "Matter of Time," an aching ode to pain and frustration that does very little wrong. While calling it perfect is probably hyperbolic, the song certainly veers close towards that very title.
When it's all said and done, these are 11 deeply potent, power-packed songs, and while Parnell doesn't veer far from heartache, the power of these very songs does enough to leave that one blemish on the shelf. So maybe in the end Adam Duritz was right. The Arc just might be one of the year's best discs.