On This Much I Understand, her third album, Carolyn Arends finds an appealing musical middle ground between the softer folk-pop sound of her debut, I Can Hear You, and the crunchier power pop of the follow-up, Feel Free. Edgier songs like "Life Is Long" and "In Between" contrast softer, more reflective tunes such as "Life and Death" and "Love You Out Loud." Arends' melodic gift never fails her, regardless of style; invariably, she writes melodies that stick with the listener. Comparisons to Shawn Colvin and, to a lesser extent, Joni Mitchell are made more explicit here with Arends' choice of musical collaborators. Co-producing with Arends is Dan Marnien, who worked as an engineer with both Mitchell and Colvin. Drummer Shawn Pelton and bassist Michael Rhodes reprise the roles they played on Colvin's masterpiece, A Few Small Repairs, providing a solid groove to the uptempo numbers. Lyrically, Arends responds to the birth of her son and the tragic death of her friend and mentor Rich Mullins with the most personal material she's penned. The joy of a new life, celebrated in "Surprised by Joy" and "Even the Wallflowers," stands in stark contrast with the pain of losing a close friend in "Love You Out Loud." The album becomes an exercise in attempting to make sense of these contradictory emotions, and "Life Is Long" successfully balances both sides of the equation. Carolyn Arends has made yet another strong album with This Much I Understand, and deserves a wider audience beyond the confines of contemporary Christian music.
AllMusic Review by Martin Monkman