The acclaimed Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Ben Arnold rocks the Opera House this Presidents Day Weekend weekend.
Flirting with record contracts and commercial success for decades now, it’s been quite a trip for an artist with great instrumental and vocal chops, lyrical inspiration, and a natural ability to engage an audience:
“Ben Arnold has an effectively grizzled, cobwebbed voice and a jones for stories linking underdogs to top dogs. As a singer, the Philadelphia resident slid, stabbed and pleaded. As a pianist, he bounded, shadowboxed and threatened to break into boogie woogie… Arnold looks like Rick Danko, sings somewhere between Levon Helm and Richard Manuel, rollicks like Garth Hudson and testifies like Robbie Robertson.”
– Geoff Gehman, www.st94.com/Sellersville Theater 1894
From big-budget major label record deals to self-financed recordings, he has clearly experienced both sides of the proverbial coin. It’s a journey that has informed his songwriting and led to a recent album of fresh new songs, called Simplify.
He’s been performing in and around Philadelphia for the last 15 years. His lyrics bring to mind early John Hiatt, Mose Allison and Lowell George. People say he sings a bit like Randy Newman or Joe Cocker, but embeds a hook like Springsteen used to do in the ’80s.
A long time WXPN favorite, he has appeared twice on The World Cafe, Free At Noon and Mountain Stage as well as numerous live appearances around the region, the West Coast and Europe. He has appeared with everyone from Ryan Adams, Martin Sexton, Lucinda Williams to Ron Sexsmith, Randy Newman and Townes Van Zandt.
His voice conveys a gentle, soulful growl while his music draws on rock, folk, R&B and many genres in between. Have a quick listen to a small taste of his sound: http://www.bestnewbands.com/ben-arnold
Arnold’s lyrics are just as quick. One moment he’s lamenting the fragility of love (“You never know when the walls cave in / Just when you begin to build it up again”), the next he’s regarding a “vivid velvet Elvis”, and the next he’s using string instruments as relationship metaphors (“I cried like a dobro for my lady Gibson”). It’s his rangy melodies, though, that distinguish him.
The raspy-voiced Arnold and his band mates can deliver with Stones-like swagger, but often the moods he explores are playful or contemplative. One ballad recalls Bob Dylan’s haunting collaborations with producer Daniel Lanois, while another, a soulful elegy for John Lennon, incorporates Beatlesque instrumental touches and familiar lyrical phrasing.
Ben Arnold’s full range of talents will be on display at the Opera House on Saturday, Feb 19. Doors for this WinterFest feature show open at 7:30 and showtime is 8:30. Opening will be Bethlehem’s talented Billy Bauer Band.
Tickets are available online or by calling the Mauch Chunk Opera House box office at 570-325-0249.