On first listen, “Let’s Get Away” is a pleasant experience with lovely melodies and perfectly-blended harmonies. But this is an album that rewards multiple listens to allow the wonderful lyrics to really seep into the brain.
It’s the debut full-length studio album by Beaumont native Brian Kalinec and Pennsylvanian KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner, who split writing credits. And both are excellent storytellers. The folk-tinged tunes are punctuated with lovely turns of phrase that stay with the listener.
The opening title track is a great driving song. After being locked down for COVID, getting away is on everyone’s minds. But this is not just a light-hearted open-road jam. With lyrics such as “leave that baggage full of anger by the door,” it hints at some serious undertones. But there is a solution. When “unsolicited opinions fuel the rant/Don’t break the spirit/break the chain” and get away.
Probably because I am a visual artist — and in the process of renovating a house — “Paint” jumped out immediately (let’s be honest, the songs we like shift according to the mood). The lyrics are a clever play on the mundane act of redecorating, with Kalinec looking to “cover up memories” of an old love.
“I’m tired of living with this lonely shade of blue/A little paint, might get me over you,” he sings, before realizing that maybe he didn’t miss her that much after all.
It’s amazing what a fresh coat can cover up.
On “Where Do Old Lovers Go?” KJ struggles to leave a relationship behind. Her old love is with someone else and, at first, it seems as though she is wondering where he is. But she drives by his house. She knows where the old love lives.
So, the old lover is in the mirror and the question is where does she go now? She sings that her “love is so deep, it’s like an endless snow.” And though he’s moved on, she says she wishes him well, “but I’m honest to say, it feels like hell.” I love that line. It’s hard to take the high road when you’ve been hurt.
“I Don’t Know,” written by Kalinec, is one of those songs that can seem trite unless they work, and in his hands the lyrics work well. Musically, it feels like an Avett Brothers’ track. In fact, the whole album made me think of other things. That’s not to say it’s derivative. It just has that classic Americana/folk feel that is comfortable and has wide appeal.
Next up is a travelogue, with KJ nostalgically claiming she is “Home in Scotland.” Fans of “Outlander” will relate to its a t m o s p h e ri c musings on the highlands. It is a tribute to KJ’s poetry that I had a visceral reaction to the lyrics. I could feel the chill air and picture the fire while imagining the band in “the real music bar.” If KJ is home is Scotland, she does a great job inviting us home.
The standout track is the KJ-penned “On This Winter’s Eve,” a celebration of a lost friend. In order to do the song justice, I should simply include all the lyrics.
This is effectively a short story about love, loss, friendship, life and death. It starts with receiving a package containing “your favorite scarf.” From there it soars into a meditation on life that should be sad but is simply too beautiful not to bring joy.
It is the sort of song that just makes one smile and transpose one’s own memories upon it. “And I know I’m not alone here/As your presence feels so good/I hear you laugh that laugh/Oh, if only you would” KJ sings.
But the final line is simply brilliant — “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” That line makes one hits the back button to listen to the song one more time before moving on. And then, maybe, just one more time.
The album concludes with Kalinec bringing the humor with “What’s Left Over,” a rejection of consumerism in favor of the little things. This upbeat ditty tells us he doesn’t “keep up with the Joneses/I don’t like the way they play/I don’t need their fancy cars/They can’t afford them anyway. Kalinec is quite comfortable with “What’s left over, that’s good enough for me/What’s left over, any more than that is greed.”
The 10 tracks on “Let’s Get Away” are musically enticing, with violins interspersed with Kalinec’s smart guitar work. The duo’s voices were made for each other. I would also make the case for listening to the album all the way through.
In this age of streaming individual tracks, there is an art to making an album flow, and Kalinec and KJ understand that each of these musical short stories add up to a fine anthology.
“Let’s Get Away” is released by Berkalin Records.
This story first ran in the Nov. 19, 2021, Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.