REVIEW : The Family - Goldenplec.com

by Danny Kilmartin

In 2013, prior to the release of his album ‘Ballad of Boogie Christ’, Joseph Arthur bought a 1912 Steinway Vertegrand piano for his Brooklyn based studio, Red Hook. The piano had been owned by a single family. On this piano, Arthur composed, recorded and leant a voice to a baker’s dozen of songs which intertwine and overlap to tell a tale of his very own, with Grammy Award winning engineer Tchad Blake (The Black Keys, U2) handling mixing duties.

Stylistically, sonically, and emotionally; ‘The Family’ is difficult, intricate and borders on the eclectic and obscure. Each track tells the tale of a different member of Arthur’s extended family; some fictional and others real.

Thematically, Arthur sings of loss, disruption, reconciliation, abandonment, despair, disdain, agitation and love, always underpinned with a strong sense of intrigue. Ethel Was Born tells the tale of a child born on the day the Titanic sank and a father’s suicide, while When I Look at You and You Keep Hanging On are simplistic, melodic pop numbers.

They Call Him Lightning sees raw, bluesy guitars and elegant pianos laid thick over a ramshackle drum loop to set in place the story of a WWII veteran. You Wear Me Out sees an addict nagged by her long-suffering husband about their children over a backdrop of reverberated guitars and verbose keys.

Meanwhile, the synth-laden Hold on Jerry juxtaposes a heart-wrenching chorus (‘this love is complicated/this death is overrated’) over what may be the album’s hookiest arrangement.

As tumultuous as the album’s sequencing and flow may be, it serves a purpose and Arthur’s attention to sonic and emotional detail is paid meticulously here; and is well complimented by his impassioned, soulful vocal of impressive range.

‘The Family’ does not aim to make a magnificent statement, but rather a personal one. Though gloomy at its core, it is no less poignant for it; gentle despite its bite. It’s effective as what it is; a labour of love, and a tribute to the family that may or may not have birthed it.


2016-08-28 - City Winery, New York

On Stage :

Solo concert

Setlist :

The Family
When Doves Cry
Hold On Jerry
They Called Him Lightning
Sister Dawn
Out on A Limb
This is Still My World
I am the Witness
Machines of War
With Your Life
Travel As Equals
I Miss the Zoo
Pledge of Allegiance
Maybe You
In the Sun
Honey and the Moon

Recording :

This concert was recorded by Grumpella (big big thank you), and shared with the fans on LonelyAstronauts Forum.


"Hi all. I was lucky enough to get to attend this show as I was in town for the Dresden Dolls reunion show the night before, I taped it as is my wont and am sharing it here. Probably not the best recording, the way we were arranged both meant a lot of applause got captured and also the chatterbox at the next row of tables over got captured more than I would have liked. However, it was a great show with a pretty fantastic set list and too few of Joseph's live shows make it into circulation these days, so, here it is.

The links :

Hope you enjoy!

As always, support the artists you love, buy their music and merch legally!

A Grumpella recording"


INTERVIEW : 2016-08-27 Rock musicians show another side at Great Park art show (by Antoine Boessenkool)

Arthur’s paintings are portraits, but in the vein of Picasso. They’re colorful and electric, as rhythm is, Arthur said. They’re almost alien-like, with splatters of paint, looping lines and out-of-proportion features.

Arthur describes them as ideas bubbling up from the subconscious.

“I wouldn’t want to sort of tack on a meaning to them or limit them,” he said. “They’re meant to be read through your perception and your interpretation."

“I love art that encourages you to follow your creativity, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Rock ’n’ roll is a bit like that too, he said. “You always have to have some ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ in it.”

You can read the complete article here.


TAB : You Wear Me Out

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

F                 C
You're their mother
Em                Dm
Start being one
I'm their father
But I can't hold it down alone
You should see them
When they ask for you
What should I tell them
Since I can't tell them the truth

F C Em Dm
F C Em Dm
You wear me out

G                     F             C
Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around
         Dm                          F
For you

Outro: Am F

TAB : Wishing Well

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

D                     F            C
On a long-distance sunday
We could go to the mall
Look around but still don't buy much
Can't afford a place to fall

G               F
Oh, the wishing well
Am                  G
Throw your coins in there
Tell them what you want
Oh, the wishing well

Intermedes : G F Am G

I know you will
Find your way
                                        F            C
You know you've got to hold on
                   F                      C                                    
You always got to hold on


TAB : The Family

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

G                      C
Sister Susan, by the time she was four
G                  D                                 C
She could climb up just about any tree
From the highway you could see our house
She would look out as the cars drove past

                F                   C                           G
And the family was always glad you came
Said the family was always glad you came

Am                                       C
We may never pass this way again
But I'll never let you down, no
I'll always let you in
I'll never let you down, no
I'll always let you in

TAB : You Keep Hanging On

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

D                                             Cadd9
I love you more than my pain
Says I should
I love you more when you're rain
Than the desert would

G                            D
         (You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I ask you to leave
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)

Even when I ask you to leave
C                              G
I see you on the other side
Am                                        D
Of your moon and your folded knife
And I wonder
                   G                    D
How you came into my life

I know sometimes you're cold inside
But I still want you to be mine
It makes me wonder
Why you came into my life

TAB : Machines Of War

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

Am                            Dm
Now I'm leaving to fly in a warplane
G                                     C 
Hitler's coming and he is a madman
Am                              Dm
I'll be back though so care for our children
G                                             C                          Am            Dm    G     C
Tell them Daddy has left to protect them now

Em                  Dm
Time is a jet away
  F(133211)                           C
Wish you would lock the door
See how our children play
We are machines of war
Love couldn't make me stay
I couldn't love you more
Just watch how our children play
We are machines of war

TAB : The Flag

Kindly tabbed by Loïc

Am    F               C
Though you're gone
Am    F               C
You're still here
Am    F               C
In Jimmy's eyes
And Linda's tears

C     G       F                         Dm
Today I think I've had enough

Without you here I'm not that strong

There's no on else I want to touch

Am         C        Am  C       Am
Cause I wish you were near
      C      Am   C      Am

I wish you were near



2016-08-15 - City Winery, New York

On Stage :

Solo concert

Setlist : 

the family
they called him lightning
in the sun
the ballad of boogie christ
machines of war
out on a limb
you keep hanging on
travel as equals
september baby
crying like a man
when doves cry (prince cover)
ethel was born
blue lights in the rear view mirror
gypsy faded
devil's broom
i miss the zoo

Recording :

Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event. 
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email.

Poster :


REVIEW : The Family - Magnet Magazine

The press release for Joseph Arthur’s latest triumph opens with a quote from Anna Karenina where Leo Tolstoy notes the disparity of families, particularly the uniformity of happiness and the singularity of melancholy. That immutable reality forms the heart of Arthur’s heartrending emotional travelogue, from the weary loss of a military family on “The Flag” (“We used to say ‘In God We Trust,’ but I’m not sure anymore/Today I think I’ve had enough”) to the exhausted single father with the kids and a chemically dependent ex-wife on “You Wear Me Out” (“You should see them when they ask for you/What should I tell them since I can’t tell them the truth?”).

Although The Family isn’t autobiographical, Arthur used his own family tales as grist for his songwriting mill, finding and expanding the universal truths among his personal experiences. And like nearly every Arthur album over the past two decades, the hallmark of The Family is his impeccable facility for sonic atmosphere; crafting a soundtrack of keening violin, shimmering guitars, a quietly emotive rhythm section, Arthur’s plaintive vocal presence and a majestic Steinway combine in the musical translation of the love, joy, heartbreak and quiet resignation that grace and afflict every familial unit. Arthur understands the power of Robert Fripp’s harrowing soundscapes, Peter Gabriel’s quiet reflection and Brian Eno’s ambient intensity, and how to focus them all through his own lens to fashion his remarkably unique artistic vision. Just like one’s real family, Arthur’s Family will lift you up, tear you down, make you face your despair and allow you a glimmer of hope.

Brian Baker

REVIEW : The Family - MOJO Magazine