I met Ben Arnold about 20 or so years ago as we worked together for a friend. We were writing up CD liner notes and such for unknown musicians and we had some fun with that, for sure. We were both just trying to make some extra money. I knew Ben was a Philly singer/songwriter but until then, I hadn’t heard his music (another local singer/songwriter Joseph Parsons was also part of our editorial crew). It was a year or so later that Ben released Astral Freak and he started to really make a name for himself in this town. From solo work to 4 Way Street, US RAILS, David Uosikkinen’s “In the Pocket” as well as various couplings/endeavors, the music kept coming. Over the years, I made sure that Ben sent me his CDs and I would get so very excited when I’d hear his songs on the radio. They reminded me of Randy Newman, always with a twist of wry. Also a bit of grit conjured via John Hiatt.
Ben’s most recent release, Circle 'Round the Sun, isn’t actually released yet but you can get it New Year’s Eve at his 2013 usher-in at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville. Tickets include dessert, midnight champagne and complimentary BYOB. Show time is 9:30 p.m. with John Francis opening. Ben will be introducing a lot of the new music live at this show in what promises to be a rock and rollicking way to bring in the new year. In his band: Ben will be performing with Matt Kass on guitar, Phil d'Agostino on bass and Matt Muir on drums.
Circle 'Round the Sun is the culmination of a year’s work and a collaboration of both music and art. These recent songs explore strong emotions and honest conversation while the music draws on piano and guitar driven slightly psychedelic folk-rock, blues and a little gospel. Ben and players Zach Djanikian (Amos Lee) and Shane Smith (Los Lobos/Feist) attack these essentially joyful songs of struggle, release, promise and redemption told with intriguing, yet accessibly strong melodies. He wrote and co-produced it all on the West Coast and finished up with a little help from friends from around the Philly scene including Ross Bellenoit, John Lilley and Rob Hyman of The Hooters as well as his regular working band. It will be available for download on iTunes at Amazon.com in mid-January.
Ben says: "I've actually been looking forward to this show since the day we started making the record last year! It's one of my favorite and most interesting collections of songs, and I couldn't be happier to release it at the start of a brand NEW year, with a my band, my friends and fans, a few surprise guests and the great John Francis starting out the night."
Dec. 31: 9:30 p.m. Steel City Coffeehouse, 203 Bridge St., Phoenixville. Call (610) 933-4043 or visit steelcitycoffeehouse.com for tickets, $35-$42.
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