Joseph Arthur

Come to Where I'm From

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With Come to Where I'm From, Joseph Arthur shows a willingness to ease up on the stifling angst that dominated his previous efforts. To be sure, the album still has more than its share of gut-wrenching misery -- there's no shortage of lines like "I feel like taking a razor blade and on my wrist write an invitation" -- but this time out, the anguish is balanced by healthy doses of self-awareness and a winking sense of humor. "Ashes Everywhere," a wistful guitar and harmonica breakup ballad, induces intentional chuckles with its meandering, dopey melody and lines like "I'm just trying to be all that I can be without destroying you or joining the army." In the ferocious and whimsical rap "Creation or a Stain" -- a strange sort of crossbreed of Beck, the Beastie Boys and OMC -- Arthur whines about "a guy in my head" and says, "I've come back from the dead so anything can happen/ I'm obsessed with tragic endings standing out like Eric Clapton." In addition to the somewhat lighter tone, Come to Where I'm From exhibits a more polished and accessible sound, without sacrificing the adventurous spirit that has been Arthur's greatest asset. Arthur undoubtedly benefited greatly from the shrewd ear of veteran producer T-Bone Burnett, a master of art-folk melancholy whose resumé includes records by the Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Elvis Costello, and Sam Phillips. Burnett's input seems to have had the effect of honing Arthur's untamed talent. The melodies are tighter and catchier, demonstrating more restraint without seeming constrained. The U2-influenced "Chemical" has the sound of an alternative-radio hit. Arthur, who once described his music as "someone trying to heal over experimental folk-rock," is clearly still hurting. But somehow it seems significant that he's now able to sing, "I'm trying to enjoy the pain."

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