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Wednesday night marked the fourth time I’ve seen Joseph Arthur live. Each experience has been a different Arthur iteration – from upwards of four on stage to this solo appearance. He knows how to make playing guitar look like the most gorgeous act on the planet while also understanding the value of a syllable. At Tin Angel this week it was less about the showmanship and more about the lyrics of not only him but also Lou Reed. And for about 90 minutes, Arthur showed why he is a nugget of rock gold.
Straddling a stool and having lyric sheets abound (this was the first show he was doing all but one of the Reed songs live), Arthur played the folk poet part well. He frontloaded the show with Reed covers, opening with five of them. It may seem odd but it worked; Arthur frames the intimacy with the familiar unfamiliar of covers and then takes the audience on a walk with his wild side. How apt it was that he opened with “Walk On the Wild Side.” With Arthur condensing a song so well known for the backing vocals into one of just him alone showed off his vocal and music abilities. The changing emphasis of lyrics and tone made the songs his own. And to jump from “Wild Side” to “Heroin” exemplified Reed’s brilliant breadth and Arthur’s understanding of a great setlist.
If the applause was oddly lukewarm for the Reed covers, the crowd, which seemed to be mostly made up of fervent Arthur aficionados, let loose when he broke into his catalog. Drawing mostly from his brilliant 2013 record The Ballad of Boogie Christ, he showed how he excels at understanding the quirks and eccentricities of the world, especially on the stream-of-consciousness “I Miss the Zoo.” And when Arthur did pause, like when lyrics escaped him on the title track of Boogie Christ, he was charmingly self-deprecating.
Rain did not keep away a three-quarters full room from Arthur, who even popped out chestnuts like “Tattoo” from his second album Come to Where I’m From and “You’re So True,” which is strangely from the Shrek 2 soundtrack. The acoustics of Tin Angel carried Arthur’s voice, guitar, and occasional harmonica from front to the very back. And this is just like Arthur, a musician who can appeal to the fan and the newbie with his rarified sense of humanity in the bustling 21st century. He sees the value in playfully interacting with giants of culture – Christ and Lou Reed – and bringing them back to down to Earth for us all to admire.
Lou will be released on May 13.
Melbourne, Australia alt-pop duo Big Scary bring their electronic infused, moody yet catchy sounds to Boot and Saddle tonight. With vocals reminiscent of Bon Iver, and an blend of keys, electric guitar and synthesized beats, Big Scary create melodic sounds in a swaying atmosphere that touches on both happy and sad emotions in an intricate way. Get tickets for the Boot and Saddle show here. Watch “Luck Now” below.
XPN favorite Joseph Arthur delivered a musically and visually rich set at The Sellersville Theater last Thursday night. Joined on bass and backup harmonies by R.E.M. vet Mike Mills, Arthur played largely from this year’s LP The Ballad of Boogie Christ, and painted an abstract portrait on a canvas propped up on the side of the stage. Local sound loop songwriter Angela Sheik opened the show; see pictures of her set and Arthur’s in the gallery below, and check out video of Arthur after the jump.Continue reading →
Indie-pop duo Cults will take to the TLA stage tonight. The New York natives released their sophomore album Static in October on Columbia Records and it has impressed fans and critics. Bullet Magazine recently included “So Far” from the new record on their “Indisputable, Definitive Best 53 Songs of 2013” list. Get tickets to the show here and watch them perform “Always Forever” from their WFUV Session below.
On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the first release, Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams comes Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven on Vanguard Records. The last edition in the series since was Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, a collection dedicated to Vic Chestnutt, in 1996. SWIII: Pennies from Heaven features 13 new recordings of songs by an all-star cast that includes Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Shelby Lynne, Victoria Williams, She & Him, Eleni Mandell, Ron Sexsmith, k.d. lang, Rickie Lee Jones, Joseph Arthur and more. The cover art is by pop art legend Peter Max.
Sweet Relief is a non-profit charity that maintains a fund that professional musicians can draw from when in need of medical care or financial needs. It started after musician and singer Victoria Williams was diagnosed with MS in 1993 and had no way to pay for her medical expenses. Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven is an excellent collection of covers. Some of the highlights include Ron Sexsmith’s gorgeous take on the title song, Joseph Arthur’s reading of “If I Needed You,” Ben Harper’s cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and “Don’t Let Us Be Sick” by Jackson Browne. Working on the project, Brown said:
“Musicians are always among the first to give their energy and talent to help other people in times of emergency, though they are very often without health insurance themselves, and need our support when they fall prey to illness and hardship. Sweet Relief has been helping musicians for years, and has helped some whom I am very much indebted to for enriching my life. I am very happy to take part in this CD project, and for the chance to support Sweet Relief’s very soulful work.”
Stream Sweet Relief III in its entirety and watch a couple videos from the recording sessions below.
Purchase Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven here.
All Photos by Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com
Singer, songwriter and XPN favorite Joseph Arthur played Free at Noon to a packed house today. On the road in support of his latest release, The Ballad of Boogie Christ, his eight-song set drew entirely from the new album, which was released on Real World Records last month. Check out a gallery of photos from the concert below, see the setlist after the jump, and listen back to the performance in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player).Continue reading →
Joseph Arthur is a musician unlike most. In addition to his songwriting, Arthur is also a well-established visual artist, designing the cover-art for almost his entire discography. Perhaps it’s this kind of multi-media tendency that gives Arthur’s songwriting such complexity, and gives Arthur himself a unique range of sound and style. His latest, The Ballad of Boogie Christ, is out now via Lonely Astronaut Records. The singer/songwriter will be stopping in Philly tonight for a show at World Cafe Live. Check out the video for his song “Saint of Impossible Causes” from The Ballad of Boogie Christ, below. Find tickets and information here.
XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week featured Joseph Arthur and his new song “Saint of Impossible Causes.” The track comes from Arthur’s upcoming album The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Stream and download the song below, and learn more about Ballad here.
Wednesday’s My Morning Download featured a quartet from Nashville called The Features and their song “The Disorder.” The band is a musical chameleon, drawing their quirky sound from classic rock, indie rock, southern soul and more with ease. They’ll be at MilkBoy Philly on Wednesday, May 8th; go here for info.
Mount Moriah delivered a stirring performance for this week’s Folkadelphia session. The North Carolina band performed songs from their recent Miracle Temple LP – download the full set on Folkadelphia’s Bandcamp here, and listen to “White Sands” below.
We got a double dose of Key Studio Sessions this week. Liz & the Lost Boys turned in a preview of their upcoming LP on Wednesday, with jazzy harp-playing and theatrical vocals. Thursday saw the release of the Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7, featuring tracks from Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and more. Download the compilation here, grab the full Liz & the Lost Boys appearance here and stream their song “I’ll Stay” below.
In advance of its release on May 7th, Grandchildren‘s Golden Age was the topic of this week’s Unlocked series. The in-depth look at the local band’s new album kicked-off with a download of “End Times.” Revisit the full feature here and download “End Times” here.