The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Arnold

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Veteran Philly singer-songwriter / rock-n-roller Ben Arnold has covered a lot of ground in the two decades he’s been making music. In the mid-90s, he was signed to Ruffhouse / Columbia and released the slacker-pop nugget Almost Speechless – which is a tiny bit ironic since the man is the total opposite of a slacker.

By the early aughties, he had grown into a more nuanced singer-songwriter and received a lot of attention from WXPN for In Case I’m Gone Tomorrow, as well as his acclaimed 4-Way Street supergroup with Jim Boggia, Scott Bricklin and Joseph Parsons. He’s released a solid string of albums since, from 2004’s Dylan-esque Calico to 2013’s Circle ‘Round The Sun.

This year, Arnold returns with his sixth LP, Lost Keys, and it’s a sleek and soulful work from a refined tunesmith. The brass arrangements paired with his husky baritone recall The Afghan Whigs’ New Orleans-rooted LP 1965; his self-described “sad guy drinking alone at the bar” ballads .(“Nobody Hurtin’ Like Me”) have a bit of Closing Time-era Tom Waits in them; and his pop nuggets are impossibly poppy, like the Randy Newman-esque bounce of “Stupid Love” that, I guarantee you, will be stuck in your head in the best possible way after hearing Ben and the band perform it for this week’s Key Studio Session.

Joining Ben is Jonathan Coleman on bass, Erik Sayles on guitar and Matt Muir on drums, and together they knock out impressive, one-take-only performances of three songs from Lost Keys – as well as “The More Things Change,” an aching number from Circle. Listen to their set below – and watch a rollicking performance of “Detroit People” shot by filmmaker Alyssa Dempsey – and grab a free download at Soundcloud.

Ben Arnold and his band celebrate the release of Lost Keys at Underground Arts on Saturday, February 6th; tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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