Joseph Arthur And The Lonely Astronauts

Sunday • Molly Malone’s (Covington)

Oct 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm

I have mixed feelings about overly prolific musicians and songwriters. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to see such an outburst of creativity. Maybe all of the 349 albums Ryan Adams released last year weren’t amazing, but it’s impressive to see someone so overflowing with art. And for your die-hard fans, too much material can never be enough.

On the other hand, I wonder if these great artists wouldn’t be better served taking their time on one strong album of 10-12 songs every year. There’s also the “flood the market” effect — some speculate Guided By Voices would have been huge if Bob Pollard didn’t put out an album every month. And there is a bit of self-aggrandizing going on, where artists believe that everything they write needs to be heard. Funny thing is, Akron-bred singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur and the other songwriters mentioned seemingly have only released a fraction of what they have actually written.

Arthur’s busy 2008 has included four EP releases and the superb full-length, Temporary People. So far. He’s also had his artwork (yep, he paints too) exhibited in between all the music stuff. The EPs are a mix of acoustic numbers and fully-fleshed out tracks, largely done all by his lonesome. Thankfully, the EPs don’t feel throwaway at all, with Arthur’s skills as a producer, musician and songwriter really shining through. But I think four EPs and an LP is quite enough for one year.

Arthur has had a pretty crazy career. After college, he became the first U.S. artist to sign with Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, which was largely dedicated to World music. He toured with Gabriel on the WOMAD tour, and his debut, Big City Secrets, was critically beloved when it came out in 1997. He began to build a bigger audience when he toured with Gomez and Ben Harper at the turn of the century. Even back then Arthur had a prolific streak, releasing his own EPs that he would sell on tour only. Later shows with R.E.M. and Tracy Chapman helped his fanbase widen even more, though he’s never truly had the audience he deserves. His biggest exposure came when Chris Martin of Coldplay and Michael Stipe recorded his song “In the Sun” to benefit hurricane victims in New Orleans.

Arthur’s Web site bills his Covington tour stop as “stripped down,” which may mean he’s giving some of his band, The Lonely Astronauts, the night off. Fear not — Arthur’s solo shows are equally as impressive, his use of a loop pedal simply mesmerizing.

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