In contemplating the unique title of Ari Pappalardo’s brilliantly eclectic, atmospheric yet grounded, rootsy and organic yet often transcendent and ethereal debut album Minstrel Class – which is not the name of any cut on the collection - the older definition of “minstrel” applies pretty well. It’s “a medieval singer or musician, especially one who sang or recited lyric or heroic poetry to a musical accompaniment for the nobility.”
So consider us, the listeners, the kings and queens for a nearly 50 minute master class in a single work conveying every sort of personal relationship emotion possible (romantic and otherwise) as well as deeply impactful socially conscious gravitas. The multi-talented Raleigh, NC based singer, songwriter and rocker extraordinaire brilliantly weaves into his peppy, high energy electric blasts and infectious jangling keen, often incisive insights about all aspects of love and romance, from a harsh sense of self-guilt about fearing long term commitment on the hypnotic, ultimately boisterous “Where Is The Line?” to a soulful meditation on trying to resist a woman’s voodoo spell and the harsh pain of getting ghosted by a Brit on the intense and confusing, wall of sonic energy driven “London Fog,
Yet his choice of “Don’t Shoot Me,” a painfully personal distorted rocker which offers a searing blow by blow of the local “justified” police shooting of his dear friend Soheil, as the second lead single in 2021 speaks volumes about the issues and relationships that are important to him beyond the minefields of personal romance.
Completely different in tone but no less haunting is the folk-styled acoustic tribute/lament “James Olin Oden” to a fellow musician friend who was taken from this coil way too soon. Heavy and serious one minute, lighthearted and frolic minded (but still with bite) the next, Pappalardo balances a biting takedown of racism and hypocrisy in the Trump era (“Running Into the Storm”) with the tongue in cheek acoustic jam “Gone ‘n’ dunnit,’ about a rambling malcontent who is trying to make sense of a world in turmoil but wishes he hadn’t gotten started on yet another rant.
Minstrel Class is a truly auspicious debut that offers a lot of fascinating entry points for those looking to connect with an artist who’s just as confused about love and the modern world as they are – and uses that heroic poetry to make his points.