Sometimes ya just gotta look into the past to move forward.
Ben Arnold has done just that with his new record Lost Keys. Inspired by the music he was surrounded brought up on, he confidently compiles the sounds of Philly Soul, Motown, Stax, and a little street corner doo-wop into an energetic and live-sounding song cycle of love lost, used, abused and rekindled.
After years of his attention focused on guitar-based folk-rock, it was little old spinet piano re-introduced into his world that changed his direction, helped him find new inspiration, and re-boot his longtime love for the instrument. Shortly after tuning up the new baby, a 70’s era, Brill-building-inspired song popped out. “Don’t Wanna Lose Ya” was the first of many to come over a few short summer months. He played it first for Dan Reed at WXPN radio in Philadelphia, who encouraged him to continue to write more songs in the same vein.
With the memory of a Midwest band tour 10 years ago, which took them to Hitsville, USA lingering in his mind and the music listened to along the way, writing a love letter of sorts, to the city which built Motown, became a natural subject and perfect groove that led to “Detroit People.” “Stupid Love,” inspired by the girl groups of the era but reframed in a more muscular tone, seemed a perfect single for Lost Keys, distilling the whole story of the record into an epic run-on sentence, complete with the requisite horn and string arrangements which Ben wrote as well. “Cannonball,” a nod to Ray Charles, the warning of “Forbidden Drive,” and the Hall and Oates-style “When Love Fades Away” are all steeped in history – yet they come alive in contemporary authenticity.
The record was produced by Ben and recorded over the last couple years in and around Philadelphia with the help of some of the city’s top players including longtime drummer Matt Muir, Zach Djanikian (Amos Lee), Eric Bazilian (The Hooters, Joan Osborne), Jay Davidson, Tony Reyes, and the sizzling voice of Philly jazz secret Jeannie Brooks. These were not players for hire, they are people who have surrounded Ben and his music for the larger part of his career.
Lost Keys is more than just another songwriter’s collection of muses. It’s a compellingly soulful, warm and inviting look into the heart of an artist at full bore. Truthful and soul bearing, yet engaging, communal and commercial.
Ben Arnold is reintroducing himself. A songwriter, musician, performer, and producer, he remains a longtime fixture on the Philadelphia musical landscape. He has toured regularly throughout the United States, as well as in Europe for the better part of the last 25 years. Originally signed to Columbia Records in the 90’s, Ben has since released countless label-supported and independent records over the decades. Always down for the challenge of re-invention and experimentation, you will see him constantly visiting far-flung points on the musical map. He has for many years been involved in collaborative projects such as 4 Way Street (Sanctuary/BMG), US Rails (Blue Rose/Europe), the Los Angeles-based indie rock band Pistol For Ringo, as well as David Uosikinnen’s In The Pocket: Essential Songs Of Philadelphia featuring Ben along with members of Philadelphia giants The Hooters, Tommy Conwell, and The Soul Survivors. His constant output of new material is a testament to the continual growth of his creative muscles as well as a product of the many worlds in which Ben Arnold operates.
His most recent tour, during this past winter, took him to Germany and The Netherlands. The tour’s first show was in Paris, France on the night of the November 13th terrorist attacks. Not to be deterred, the tour went on as planned and, in a small way, became a non-stop labor of love to bring music, compassion and sympathy to so many people, in a time of so much stress and doubt in humanity.
With a crusty, curmudgeonly, but loving take on the world around him, Ben Arnold continues to reveal more of himself with every record and live performance. Always a different day, another mood, and another view on the human condition. This is not an artist who has simply paid his dues. Ben Arnold is compelled to doing what he does, and does so with one of the most unique, if little known, voices in music today.
“His most rounded, highly orchestrated album.”
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
“This is a mature, relaxed collection oozing experience and musical know-how with its positive groovy vibe.”