Saturday, April 01, 2006

Music - Joseph Arthur

Music is a major (and hopefully healthy) obsession of mine. It always has been. I watch concerts like many watch sporting events. Improvisational jazz is just about the most exciting thing in the world. Consequently, much of my life has been spent playing and listening to music. I've become rather picky in my "old age", and it's rare for new music to come along and knock my socks off. So after a long dry spell, I have a new musical obsession in the works of Joseph Arthur.

He's not new on the scene. About the time I found a reference to him on Bob Carlton's most excellent blog, "The Corner", I discovered his music had been in the episode of Grey's Anatomy we had watched recently. Bob's reference was to the digital EP release of 5 different mixes of Arthur's song, "In The Sun" on iTunes. All funds from this release go to Gulf state Hurricane Relief. Also apparently Joseph has a tune in "Shrek 2", (which I have not seen). He was "discovered" by Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed, and his first three releases were on Gabriel's Real World label. So I'm hardly the only one who likes his stuff.

You can easily sample his music by going to his home page - The embedded music player plays 3 full songs from his latest release, "Our Shadows Will Remain". I've passed this on to some folks over the past month, and had about 50/50 response between those who like him and those who don't get into him. Obviously I'm in the former group. His self-described role is "someone struggling to heal over experimental folk-rock". I'm not sure that I can isolate a single aspect of his music that appeals to me the most. He certainly blends acoustic, electric, and electronic sound sources effectly. His songs contains some of the freshest hooks and sonic/melodic surprises in my recent memory. And his lyrics simultaneously puzzle, challenge, inflict guilt, inflict hope, and generate joy in the midst of this multifaceted existence of ours.

I've acquired all four of his full-length releases (he also has a couple of EP and vinyl releases), and my favorites are the two recent ones - "Our Shadows Will Remain" and "Redemptions Son". I'm certain one or both of these will soon make it to my desert island list (in the sidebar). From what I've gathered through articles and a couple of video downloads, his live solo concerts are unique, in that he creates paintings during each show. (His latest release contains a 36 page booklet of his art work - assuming you don't download it...) Through the use of a variety of guitar pedals and digital effects, he creates percussion and musical loops on the fly, and adds layers of his own vocals dynamically. So each song performance becomes effectively a new orchestration. (He also sells CDs of his concerts after the show and via his web site).

I could go on and on, but it is best to just give a listen and check out his lyrics for yourself. Let me know what you thing.

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