By Tony Bonyata
On Ohioan-turned-New Yorker Joseph Arthur's latest release Come To Where I'm From he proves to be much more than just a folk singer-songwriter from the sticks. Arthur's packed along many musical influences in his traveling bag -folk, pop, alternative rock and even a dash of punk. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he doesn't try and hybridize it all into a so-called new music. Instead he succeeds in slowly shifting styles from one song to the next, making his third release a rich surprise in a semi-stagnant music scene.
On the outside packaging Arthur has created a number of his own "outsider art" paintings to give it a hip, fresh look. On the inside, traces of "outsider musicians" such as Tom Waits, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Dylan and The Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano can be heard floating throughout the album without ever sounding like he is copping any of their styles.
Arthur spills his emotions out on the opening number "In The Sun," where he sends his blessing of "may God's love be with you" without coming off too preachy. His folk roots run deep on the numbers "Ashes Everywhere," complete with Dylan-esque harmonica, and "History," which would fit comfortably in the realms of a Lollapalooza festival squeezed into New York's Greenwich Village.
An ethereal guitar drones over his cold, detached vocals on "Invisible Hands," while suicidal thoughts rise on "The Real You," reminding us of the plaintive beauty and ultimate waste of Kurt Cobain. Arthur shows a tougher edge on the hard-rocking "Exhausted" and the punky "Creation or a Stain" which feeds off the power of Patti Smith circa 1977. But beyond all this he still shows that he's got a true talent for creating well-written pop. Songs like the Beck-meets-Dinosaur Jr. number "Chemical," as well as "Tattoo" and the beautifully haunting "Speed of Light" prove him to be one of the bright new artists of the new decade. "Come to where I'm from," Arthur moans on "The Real You," and once you do you'll also find yourself heading to where he's going.
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