Review by Joe Knipe
It feels like it was just yesterday that we were reviewing Joseph Arthur’s last release but of course time passes quickly when you’re having fun and all that’s actually happened is that Arthur has spent the last couple of years honing his already impressive skill set even more.
The Family has everything you could have grown to expect from Arthur over the years and more. It begins with the title track The Family which is rocky, edgy and rich with a gospel feeling. It’s loud, it’s brash, it’s bold and yet at the same time it is somehow smooth and soulful. Overlayed with rock guitar medleys it’s a strange amalgamation as it clashes with pianos and choirs – somehow however it sounds as if it was always meant to be that way.
No matter how strange or discordant his work might sound on paper, it is indisputable that Arthur’s work is exemplary in reality, carrying within it something akin to early Beck. That is of course a very large part of his appeal however; Arthur is a man who, like Beck, has mastered the art of taking unfamiliar or conflicting sounds and bringing them together in the most astonishing ways.
Of course one of the things that ties this all together is his gravelled vocals. Deep, powerful and earnest, they are soulful and emotive, brimming with passion and power. His voice is difficult to ignore, making the messages in his lyrics equally difficult to avoid. There is something wonderfully familiar in his vocals and yet at the same time totally unique. It’s difficult to ascertain just what is that magic touch he adds to every song but it often feels as though it has come from his stunning vocal stylings.
Rich with organs and pianos, choirs, amalgamated drum beats and distorted guitars, The Family is an album that on paper might sound strange and busy but in reality it is a powerful and carefully crafted album brought together in an act of eccentric genius. Taking a hint of just about every genre and turning them on their heads before bringing them together seems to be a specialty for Arthur and The Family is no exception to the rule.