Tuesday, June 02 7:30 PM
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 favorites—using 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 himself—as he did with most of his releases—earned 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.
Jill Sobule is a Denver-born singer, songwriter, storyteller, guitarist and gypsy. Over seven albums and nearly two decades of recording, Jill has mused on topics such as the death penalty, anorexia, shoplifting, reproduction, the French resistance movement, adolescence and the Christian right.
Her recording career began in 1990 with her debut album Things Here are Different, recorded by Todd Rundgren. Her 1995 self-titled album, Jill Sobule, yielded the hit songs I Kissed A Girl (the original) and Supermodel. Since then, she has continued to record, produce and tour with an ever-growing loyal fan base. Jill is considered a pioneer in crowd sourcing, with her 2009 fan-funded record, California Years. She continues to be at the forefront of exploring and creating new models for artists in an ever-changing changing music industry.
She’s performed with Neil Young, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Morello and Warren Zevon and inducted Neil Diamond into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. She can be seen live as a solo performer as well as the co-star of the Jill & Julia Show, an unusual and mesmerizing combination of song and storytelling in collaboration with comedian/actress Julia Sweeney. She also served as songwriter/composer for the hit Nickelodeon network show Unfabulous during that show's three-season run. She composed the music for the off-Broadway show Prozak and Platypus and her songs have appeared in a multitude of films including Mind the Gap, in which Jill herself co-starred. She has been a political troubadour for NPR stations across America and most recently performed original music at the keynote session for Netroots Nation. Jill is a longtime participant as well as musical contributor at TED.
A veritable gypsy, Jill divides her time between a busy touring schedule and a variety of other projects. The recently released A Day at the Pass finally captures an ongoing collaboration between Jill and John Doe (from the iconic punk band X) and was recorded live at The Pass studio on one fine day in Los Angeles. She is currently recording her next record, Dottie’s Charm’s - a collaboration between her and 11 of her favorite authors, including: Rick Moody, David Hajdu and Jonathon Lathem, Jill is also working with Steve Cossin (The Civillians), Jim Lewis (FELA) and Robin Eaton (a longtime collaborator) on the musical, Times Square.
In the words of New York Times pop music critic Jon Pareles, “Jill Sobule can claim her place among the stellar New York singer-songwriters of the last decade. Topical, funny and more than a little poignant...grown-up music for an adolescent age.”