The art of songwriting perfected

Joseph Arthur *****

Cabaret Voltaire

WHAT used to make Joseph Arthur's performances so great was the abstract portraits he would daub at the back of the stage, singing while he painted.

Nowadays, his artwork has been substituted for a backing band - The Lonely Astronauts, as Arthur calls them - who themselves could be construed as sonic paint brushes, colouring Arthur's tunes with big dollops of lost love, post-romantic heartache and darkness.

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He has a deep, throaty voice that is both warm and soothing, as any woman in the audience would surely attest. And, like most troubadours, he looks like he got out of bed five minutes before taking the stage.

No matter, Arthur's acoustic-led songs echo the best work of Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, and John Lennon: ghostly and confrontational one minute, heartfelt and reassuring the next.

In a time where supposedly bona-fide songwriters are presented to us every week, the 36-year-old from Ohio, is, as they say, the Real McCoy; commanding the stage with a presence and charisma few can match.

So it all begs the question: why is Arthur still playing small venues after ten years on the road? Answers on a postcard, please.