Nevermind My Blues

Ben Arnold is fine example of a blue-collar Philadelphia singer/songwriter - and I mean that as a compliment. I’m not referring to high society Philadelphia; I’m talking about the gritty urban landscape, the side-street vendors, the under appreciated cousin of New York City. I’m talking about the average Joe and Jane who has labors for wages, raised a family and covered the mortgage come hell or high water. I’m talking about the guy or gal who really enjoys a cold beer, a great cheese steak and a Philly win.

Ben Arnold has experienced the hard-scrabble existence of a working musician and the fickle fate of the recording industry. He’s been recording since the early 1990s and even hit on a major label deal that should have raised his profile but sometimes luck just isn’t attentive. Despite enduring disappointments Ben Arnold has never stopped writing, performing and releasing a number of albums that are full of gems waiting for the right ears to find them. He’s also worked on side-projects with his rock band 4 Way Street.

Never Mind My Blues is Arnold’s first album for Ropeadope records and he is their first signed singer/songwriter in the label’s 10 year history. The title track works as an introductory summary of Arnold’s career and attitude. Despite his bad luck he’ll always search out the silver lining – and life goes on. “Suckin’ Honey” details his emergence from a bad stretch thanks to his refusal to give up hope. Complimenting these attitudes is Arnold’s graveled vocals. He sounds like a guy who’s hung out in the kinds of bars that have Springsteen and Petty on the juke box and clouds of smoke wafting round the barstools.

Arnold also has a romantic side and it is that undying belief in love as life’s saving grace that gives buoyancy to this blues-based album. "The Last Song" typifies his approach to love ballads; honesty, even if it’s admitting blunders in relationships, is the most surefire way to keep a love burning. His devotional admissions seem all the more sweet thanks to his growling delivery. “Timeless” will surely remind you of Randy Newman with its lilting piano melody – that is until the rock band kicks in at the end. Arnold steps away from Philly long enough to write the beautiful “Leaving NOLA” a song that pays homage to the people and history of New Orleans and their unbreakable connection.

Arnold wraps the album with the utterly positive “Heaven Next Time” a song that features handclaps and spiritual vibrancy. If Ben is an example of the kind of folk you’ll find in Philly, it sounds like a place that is worth your time. Ditto for Never Mind My Blues.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host