The Ballad of Boogie Christ
Lonely Astronaut/Real World
It’s been hard for me to reconcile how I feel about Joseph Arthur. For every plus there’s a minus – discovered/championed by Peter Gabriel. BUT jams with Ben Harper. Creates lovely folksy widescreen pop. BUT sounds a bit like Bono. Still, I love his prolific work rate and the players on this album, his grand statement (to date) include Jim Keltner, Catherine Popper, Garth Hudson and Joan Wasser. They’re all people I’d listen to regardless – they could be on a Lana Del Rey record and I’d still tune in.
And Arthur’s songs for his Boogie Christ character – a sort of sprawling not quite Ziggy Stardust-but-fortunately-not-at-all-Chris Gaines-type deal – feature the Sea of Love update, Currency of Love, the lovely lilter, I Used To Know To Walk on Water, the jubilant Wait For Your Lights and rustic singalongs like All The Old Heroes.
He covers a lot of ground but it all hangs together, all sits with the theme – loose character sketches in a patchwork contrivance of an autobiography.
It’s a charming version of orchestral pop music – and if you take in the double-disc experience with a full second act there are a handful of songs that are better than anything on the main album – like Blue Lights in The Rear View, the sort of hook-laden gem so many almost alt-country practitioners aim for and always miss.
And Holding The Void has that weepy pedal steel sitting in behind the voice – and a wonderful voice it is too. In fact it’s Arthur’s vocals that drive the Boogie Christ album even if it was the writing that pushed the project into place.
He’s getting better with every release it seems – I think his upcoming Lou Reed tribute album could be the one to knock it out of the park.