Joseph Arthur: Redemption's Son

Joseph Arthur: Redemption's Son

When Joseph Arthur's American debut Come To Where I'm From appeared in 2000, it signaled the arrival of a talent at once intriguing and half-formed. Thanks to an enveloping sound appropriate to an artist signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Arthur made it easy to overlook his shortage of memorable songs, as well as lyrics which might politely be called direct–;or, less politely, clumsy. In a reversal of how notable albums usually work, Come To Where I'm From grew less pleasurable with each listen. The new Redemption's Son seems unlikely to encounter the same problem. Not every track represents a powerful stride in the right direction, but more than enough do for Son to make good on Arthur's past promise. His new songwriting muscularity reveals itself on the opening track; "Redemption's Son," a dark, cooing tale of a lost father, establishes the themes of emotional and spiritual dislocation that haunt the disc. With the help of mixer Tchad Blake, Arthur carries forward the sonic layering that distinguished his last record, but he makes room for a lot of diversity within that framework. "Let's Embrace"; sounds unabashedly poppy, the album-closing "You've Been Loved" belongs on any make-out mix, and "Dear Lord" sneaks gospel into a harmonica-driven rave-up. Jesus is name-checked more often than on some DC Talk albums, and "Dear Lord" is only one of God's many cameos, sometimes as a distant friend, sometimes as an impossible ideal, and sometimes as an alter ego. Arthur can occasionally sound like a clove-smoking undergrad, but he mostly handles his headiest material with grace to match his musical ambition, and a depth of feeling that should only grow more impressive over time.

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