Friday, January 1, 2016

Joseph Arthur at City Winery

Joseph Arthur took piano lessons as a youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and began composing songs by his early teens. At age 16, while still in high school, he played bass in a blues band called Frankie Starr & the Chill Factor. Days after graduation from high school in 1990, he moved with his band to Atlanta, Georgia, supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop, while recording home demos and playing in night clubs. In 1996, one of these demos reached the ear of Peter Gabriel, who signed Arthur to his record company for a short time. Arthur had been discovered, and before long he was performing at Gabriel’s WOMAD festival, despite having played solo on acoustic guitar "maybe one time before." Arthur became best known as a solo artist, but he joined Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in the short-lived trio Fistful of Mercy in 2010, and in 2012, collaborated with Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament in the band RNDM. Arthur's 11th solo studio album of original songs is 2015's Days of Surrender. Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Arthur is also a painter and designer.

Arthur headlined his sixth annual New Year's night concert tonight at City Winery, accompanied again only by his guitar and its sound effects. To create a layered sonic palette for his poetic lyrics and soft singing, Arthur frequently began his songs by playing a guitar lick and then looping it electronically. He sometimes added percussion by hitting the guitar strings and looping that rhythm as well. Twice he looped his subtle vocals as well so that he could harmonize with himself later. These effects became his backup as he sang and played lead guitar. These songs were moody, soulful observations of our world and its human interactions. For his final song, the singer/songwriter turned artist again, using a black marker and a brush with white paint to add to a previously marked barrel at the back of the stage as he sang and the music loops played. It is a pity that Arthur's many talents are still unknown to a larger audience.

Visit Joseph Arthur at