50 Different Ways
Kerri Arista may have grown up in Dallas, but as a songwriter, she currently lives somewhere in the neighborhood of Suzanne Vega and Dar Williams. She plays 100 gigs a year, mostly opting for weekly sets at the dinner-type venues most readily available to "girls with guitars" in Dallas, like Café Lago, and appearances at folk-Mecca listening rooms like Uncle Calvin's and annual outdoor festivals. Kerri's CD release party for her third album, "50 Different Ways" packed the house with her fans at La Grange in Deep Ellum in November 2010. Entrepreneurial and enterprising, largely self-taught and highly self-motivated, Kerri left school teaching a decade ago to build a performing career, dedicating herself to the craft of songwriting, and researching and consulting with experienced audio engineers in assembling a small, but respectable recording studio in the spare bedroom of her home. "50 Different Ways" is the third volume from that studio - a collection of songs she composed as a result of diving into the 50/90 Challenge, a marathon of songwriting in which artists attempt to create a finished song in less than 2 days, over and over again, during a 3 month period. Kerri said recently, "It's an online challenge I've been able to complete 3 years in a row now. For whatever reason, it works really well for me to spit out loads of songs in a short time, and then go back later and Polish up the good ones." On "50 Different Ways", the evolution of her recorded work took a big leap forward, thanks to extraordinary percussionist Aaron Thomas (Ezra Thomas, Fishing for Comets) who is also a solid producer. Aaron not only played on several tracks, he also produced a big handful of the songs, resulting in arrangements that remain acoustic-based and authentically Kerri's, but with added life and magic beyond her mostly solo voice-and-guitar recordings of previous years that elevate this latest set of tracks to a new level of artistic success. This latest CD was also mastered by producer/engineer Mark Hallman (Carole King, Shawn Colvin, Eliza Gilkyson, Robert Earl Keen, Kelly Willis) at Congress House Studio in Austin, Texas. In addition to Thomas on percussion, Kerri was joined by her frequent sidekick in live performances, Sarah Reinke on cello, as well as Sam Romero on bass and hauntingly-effective electric guitar, Cornell Kinderknecht on flute, Eric Neal also on bass, and her husband, Fermin Arista, on piano.