When Lou Reed friend Bill Bentley, now working as an A&R director for Vanguard Records, read Joseph Arthur's moving eulogy in American Songwriter magazine, he approached him to record an album of Lou Reed songs. "Bill told me, 'Don't overthink it,'" says Joseph. Arthur set himself up in his Brooklyn studio last December and proceeded to cut twelve of his favoritesusing only acoustic guitar and bass, piano and vocals. "The only way I know to give new life to something as rich with life as Lou's songs and recordings is to go about them in a completely different way. No drums or electricity."|
By stripping these songs down to their essence, Arthur allows us to hear Reed's music and especially his lyrics, with brand-new ears, from the well-known ("Walk on the Wild Side," "Heroin," "Pale Blue Eyes," "Satellite of Love" and the first song he attempted, "Coney Island Baby") to the more obscure (Magic and Loss' "Sword of Damocles," Set the Twilight Reeling's "NYC Man," Lou Reed's "Wild Child" and "Stephanie Says," later reworked as Berlin's "Caroline Says").
"I put my soul into this record," says Arthur. "It was like getting to hang out with Lou again, being inside his head."
Indeed, Lou lets you listen to these songs as if you've never heard them before. "I only wish he was alive to have heard them," says Arthur, who wrote in his remembrance, "I'm trying not to focus on the fact that I had him in my life; that I loved him, and he loved me, and not think about the lost opportunity to see him again. We can't cross over and we can't come back and those that go before us become one with the mystery of everything. Lou was always of that mystery."
Lou Reed was not only one of Joseph Arthur's musical inspirations, he was a good friend, and that "Family Love," as the singer/songwriter/painter/designer describes the pair's relationship, can be heard in Lou, his simultaneous eulogy and tribute to the man's life. Reed was on hand at New York's Club Fez back in 1996 when Arthur performed a live audition for Peter Gabriel, which earned him his initial deal as the first American artist signed to Gabriel's Real World label. Afterward, the two went out to eat ice cream, and found themselves sitting next to Dolly Parton.
"He was always just true to himself and what he was," admired Arthur, whose liner notes for the album states, despite his punk reputation, "Lou was lovable Everyone I knew loved him, whether they knew him or not."
Lou offers a glimpse behind the curtain, both homage and a way to breathe new life into Reed's remarkably deep, but consistent, catalog for future generations to come. Lou works as a cohesive whole, even though the individual songs come from all periods in Reed's career, from the Velvet Underground to his solo output.
The Akron, Ohio-born Arthur was a jazz fusion bassist when he first discovered the Velvet Underground in his late teens ("It was the perfect timing," he recalls, since he had only begun singing himself), and forged an impressive solo career that began with 1997's Big City Secrets, as the first American signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, later joining Gabriel's WOMAD tour in Europe. Two years later, the EP Vacancy, with an album cover he created and designed himselfas he did with most of his releasesearned a 2000 Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.
Arthur released his sophomore album, Come to Where I'm From, produced by T Bone Burnett and Tchad Blake, in 2000, his last album for Real World before putting out the double album Redemption's Son on Universal Music Group's Enjoy Records in 2002. He followed with Our Shadows Will Remain on Vector Recordings, making the album in New Orleans, New York City, London and Prague, with string arrangements provided by the City of Prague Philharmonic. In 2006, Arthur started his own label, Lonely Astronaut Records, releasing a visual collection of his artworks in a book titled We Almost Made It, along with his fifth studio album, The Invisible Parade, recorded in Berlin and Los Angeles. His song, "In the Sun," was covered by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Coldplay's Chris Martin for a digital Hurricane Katrina EP sold on iTunes, which included six different versions, one a remix by Justin Timberlake. A sixth album, Let's Just Be, came out in 2007, followed by Temporary People in 2008, both recorded with his back-up band the Lonely Astronauts.
Arthur was also a member of two super groups, including Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison, releasing the album As I Call You Down in 2010, also collaborating with Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament in the band RNDM. He released three solo albums over the past three years: The Graduation Ceremony, The double-CD Redemption City and last year's The Ballad of Boogie Christ, which he successfully financed through online crowd-funding site, Pledge Music.
A modern American singer/songwriter in the truest sense of the genre, Jenee Halstead has much in common with Patty Griffin & Shawn Colvin in both writing style and delivery, what is more impressive is the fact that since her debut album was released in 2008 the quality of the writing has been up there with the very best. She's a keenly observant writer and has an eye for detail way beyond that of a young artist... Vocally she shares many attributes with Griffin, the range and phrasing certainly have distinct similarities, and this is no bad thing as it makes the whole collection of Jenee's work immediately engaging and somewhat familiar; but from the first listen it is obvious she is ploughing her own furrow with her mix of traditional and contemporary themes.
Halstead grew up in the high desert of Spokane, Washington, the daughter of hippie parents who let her find her own direction. She spent her childhood exploring her mother's garden and singing along to records with her Dad. In middle school, she transformed into the rarest of birds; an athletic choir geek who sang medieval choral works, but loved Led Zeppelin and Dolly Parton. She wrote quietly on her own for years, moving from place to place Spokane to Seattle to nowhere Alaska, before moving to Boston in 2007. She collected all of her songs into what would become The River Grace. Raised By Wolves reclaims the careless freedom of her childhood with a sense of wonder that is unique and fiercely engaging. - See more at: www.jeneehalstead.com/
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