Best known for his solo material, and as a member of Fistful of Mercy and RNDM alongside Pearl Jam’s Bassist Jeff Ament, Joseph Arthur has built something of a reputation in his sixteen year career. It has been a career filled with high profile collaborations and solo albums – becoming known for his acoustic songs being filled with emotion and character.

His latest album, The Family, only emphasises this and it is all down to his instrument of inspiration: a Steinway Vertegrande piano from 1912. The Family was written at the piano and he states that it was so full of character and history, that it was owned by just one family until it ended up in his industrial studio space and you can hear how it has impacted this album as he takes you on an emotional journey about the circumstances surrounding families.

Opening with the title track ‘The Family’, the easy-listening, relaxed sound gives a sense of being welcomed in by your own family. This continues as ‘Sister Dawn’ is another relaxing melody brilliantly keyed by the piano and the addition of the drums makes a fantastic impact. But it’s the lyrics that capture you, as the song appears to advise the listener on how to treat their children with love. The tone of the album changes gear as ‘With Your Life’ is a lot faster in pace, yet with vocals that are perfectly whispered over the beat.

After this the mood changes in the album. While there is not a dramatic shift in melody, it’s the depth of emotion in his vocals and lyrics that lets you feel that Arthur is opening the Pandora’s box of family dynamics even more. From songs focusing on leaving your family (‘Machines of War’) to songs tackling the topic of parent suicide (‘Ethel Was Born’), Arthur leaves little territory unexplored as he delves into the darker side of familial concepts. ‘Daddy The War Machine’ then brings it all back around, with the mix of hardened drums and piano keys proving a stunning backdrop to lyrics delving into the consequences of war within a family – making for an excellent way to close the album.

The Family is fantastic album that discusses the difficult situations that a family has to deal with and how the realities of the world effect the family unit. Deeply personal, this album will have listeners realising just how important family is – whether it being via blood relation or emotional attachments. The Family will make you think and question your own emotional depths while Arthur scrapes his own.

4/5