Take a Walk on Joseph Arthur’s Side
How does one properly commemorate a friend’s life through art? The life of any individual encompasses innumerable facets that anyone sane would consider too lofty to fully explore and do justice towards; furthermore, if that friend were Lou Reed, wouldn’t that goal be even more unattainable? Apparently, these thoughts never crossed the mind of ambitious singer-songwriter-visual artist Joseph Arthur, whose newest album Lou pays tribute to a friend and artist who undoubtedly revolutionized music from the 1960s onwards.
At first listen, Lou seems like shtick on Arthur’s part, synthesizing Reed’s raunchy musicality and lyrics through coffeehouse-esque downtempo covers, essentially eliminating many of the provoking and groundbreaking qualities of the original music. Further analysis, however, proves this is not the case; Arthur’s piano and guitar-based instrumentation coupled with his soulful baritone voice are rife with sincerity. It seems that Arthur is hurting from the loss of someone who was both an influence and companion in his life, and the accompanying catharsis is this album.
Arthur’s covers of “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Heroin” are heartbreaking, beautiful, and definite standouts on this release, and his ability to convey Reed’s energy and eclectics through such a drastically different medium is to be commended. Additionally, despite the fact that the entire album utilizes both piano and acoustic guitar, Joseph Arthur manages to keep Lou warm from beginning to end.
Rarely does a tribute album merit such praise, and almost never does a release like this come from one artist exclusively. However, Arthur’s nuanced understanding of the music of Lou Reed coupled with a vision of his own makes Lou impeccable and almost without flaw. Even to the unfamiliar ear this release deserves a listen, and heightens the anticipation of Joseph Arthur’s next, original composition.