Some of Joseph Arthur’s songs are permanent parts of my life’s soundtrack. I love “In The Sun” (like everyone else– and my guess is, even if you don’t think you know this song, you probably do, as it was featured on Scrubs, making it notorious for a while; the refrain, “May God’s love be with you,” sounds particularly hopeful and beautiful coming from Arthur’s low voice), and I like “In the Night” equally well. But this week, as I started going through hisfree double album,Redemption City, I heard my favorite Joseph Arthur song for the first time.
I’ve been working at putting poems together for a poetry journal, Measure, for a while, and I’m fortunate that one of the perks is getting to read a lot of poetry, namely by musicians. I read (and fell in love with) a poem called “Travel As Equals (Or Not at All)” several months ago– and was shocked to see Arthur playing those words, but with a seriously compelling melody (and crazy backup vocals) on David Letterman. He’s adapted the poem to music, and it sounds like a weird cross between the sing-speak of Dylan, the epic soundscape of U2 or the Dandy Warhols, and has a pretty heavy dose of impressive percussion, too. Though I prefer the backup singers (and the urgency) of the live performance on Letterman, I’m including the official video here, because I genuinely love it. I haven’t had so much fun watching a video in a long time, and I can’t honestly say why; it just feels like we were all invited to a private jam session.
One of the best parts of any Joseph Arthur record is the way he communicates with his fanbase. About Redemption City, he says,
“Please don’t take the method or the freedom of this release
to be any judgment on its value.
I think it’s top notch,
but it’s great to take advantage of what the internet is actually good at -
This is the first time I’ve released something while still
The record is pretty solid, and all of it follows a lot of the patterns set forth in “Travel As Equals”– it’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking release, and as someone who is very supportive of OWS and the efforts that people are making to make America better, Joseph Arthur reflects that desire in his hopeful (but sometimes blunt) lyrics. There’s a lot of social critique in this record, but that’s a good thing; he uses stark images to paint a vivid portrait of the fear, anxiety, and survival of being an American citizen today, in this world. It’s refreshing to hear something honest.
As much as I enjoy the record on the whole, I can’t say enough about “Travel as Equals”. This is a song I’ll be listening to for a very long time, and I hope learning more and more from in each listen.