Joseph Arthur returns for show Monday at Lime Spider
When singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur returns to his native Akron to perform at the Lime Spider on Monday night, it will be another special event in what has been a year full of them.
After bouncing from label to label, Arthur decided to go the DIY route and release his latest album, the relatively stripped-down Nuclear Daydream, on his own Lonely Astronaut records. The subsequent tour has been his first with a four-piece backing band.
Early last month, he appeared on Late Night With David Letterman and his performance of the Stones-flavored Slide Away prompted the usually taciturn Letterman to remark: ``I want to go with those people. I would like to be with those people.... I think they are doing things I'm not,'' adding ``Wonderful music, too.''
In addition to that awkwardly phrased late-night affirmation, Arthur saw his song In the Sun from his second album, Come to Where I'm From, recorded by one of his musical heroes (and now good buddy) Michael Stipe, along with Coldplay's Chris Martin. It was a benefit single for hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast and became the name of the charitable organization (www.inthesun.org).
His Stipe connection led Arthur to meet members of the aid group Six Villages, who took him to a refugee camp in northern Uganda. Armed with painting supplies, Arthur interacted with and taught basic painting skills to the children, many of whom were orphaned by the paramilitary group the Lord's Resistance Army.
Arthur wrote and recorded his song The River Blue with some of the children and brought home about 300 of their paintings. ``They were pretty amazing,'' he said. ``Depictions of the LRA and what had happened to them, their homes burning down and their families being murdered.''
Arthur said the trip ``had an extreme impact on my life,'' and certainly added some perspective to his own trials and tribulations.
``Well, when you have little problems, you can't really buy into them as much, you know? It's like, whatever, dude.''
The recordings will be part of a benefit CD aimed at building a rehab center in the camp Arthur visited, ``revolving around giving them the means to express themselves in order to heal themselves through the traumas they've suffered.''
But even with all his globe-hopping, the Brooklyn-based Arthur says returning to Akron, which he left four days after graduating from Firestone High School in 1990, is still special.
``It still feels like home,'' he said from a tour stop in Virginia.
``My folks still live in the exact same place and I still go there. I've been in New York for the better part of 10 years, so it's my adult home, but Akron -- I was born and raised there from zero to 18, so it's always going to feel like `home' home, and I still got some old friends there.''
Before assembling the band, Arthur's standard touring mode was the high-tech troubadour singing his sensitive songs backed by his guitar, harmonica and a plethora of effects pedals and loop machines, which he would sometimes leave running while he created a painting during the show.
``It's been a real evolution for me to kind of break away from doing it all myself and sampling myself, and now half the show I don't even play guitar, I just front the band. It's kind of exciting for me.''
The band, which features Jennifer Turner on guitar, Greg Wieczorek on drums, Sibyl Buck on bass and Golden Smog/Jayhawks member Kraig Jarret Jonson on keyboard and guitars, has not only inspired Arthur to flex his rock muscles (usually held in check on his albums and solo performances) and already active songwriting muse.
``As the tour has progressed, I've been writing a bunch of songs and the band has been writing a bunch of songs, and it's become more collaborative and more of a rock show. It's cool, it's opened up a new world for me.''
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