Written by Maria Arroyo
Performer and musician, Nelson Kempf, releases his new album Family Dollar since taking a huge hiatus from music. After his first son was born, he took a break from music, and spent years traveling back and forth from his family in Tennessee, and to his new job as a welder in the Arctic tundra.
“Over my years of separation from music, I grew increasingly disillusioned with my old creative processes,” Kempf says, “the folksy song writing of my early twenties didn’t seem to accommodate the illness, death, mental breakdowns, social alienation, and poverty that had pervaded my immediate experience.” Thus, Family Dollar was created.
His first song “Sweetness and Strife” has this beautiful ethereal sound, which is very representative of the album as a whole. It immediately puts the listener at ease with this serene atmosphere surrounding it. The track ends with a beautiful outro that creates waves of calmness that just wash over you.
His next track “Hourglass” introduces a more world-like sound that mixes in with his celestial aesthetic very well. The different parts of the song blend well and are easy on the listeners’ ears, which is one of the biggest similarities throughout the album. It’s music that creates an environment without agitation or abruptness that I found very pleasing. Kempf’s ability to mix these two drastic elements together really speaks to the volume of musicality that brings his music to life.
The next track of Family Dollar is “Dream Of Life,” which introduces a more spacey and ambient sound, along with a more approach. The smooth vocal melody is extremely catchy, and is paired with this beautiful jazzy instrumental section. This piece in particular is a combination of old-time jazz meeting modern and futuristic vibes, and the blend of the two is superb. I love the entire feel of the song, and being able to comfortably say that it’s so different from most music out there is an absolute pleasure.
Another song with the same jazzy flair is “InLiteInBetween.” Kempf is also able to create such beautiful tension in the song which really brings it to another level and brings it new life. Bringing back his worldly sound is his next piece “Make It Better.” He also introduces this chant-like section in the undertones of the music, which are paired with a yodel style vocal part.
The album title track, “Family Dollar,” is tied together with so many elements that blend nicely together. There’s always something new to listen for, and in the moments when the intensity is more subdued, it allows for those more energetic moments to really shine through.
“This song is a moment to moment meditation,” Kempf explains, “in an attempt to stay mentally and physically afloat under the crushing weight of credit delinquency, pre-foreclosure, etc.” Closing out his album is his song “Moment of Clarity” the short and sweet ending to the album really pulled everything down together.
“The intense pressure that inflates every moment;” Kempf says, “the exhausting physicality of stress; the impossibly stacked odds against sound decision making,” and that “there is also beauty in darkness.” Kempf‘s album really brought me to a different mindset than I usually have when listening to music. Family Dollar is a collection of a vast amount of different inspirations sewn together to make a beautifully executed creation.
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