This past winter, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur found himself holed up in his home studio, missing the tour he’d just finished and dreading the final tribute concert at the Apollo for his friend Lou Reed, who’d died in October. “I went almost without wanting to,” he writes. “I was tired of mourning him and it felt like I was done, but in truth, the real mourning was only just beginning.”
Arthur’s words come from the liner notes to his new collection, Lou, a tribute album featuring his interpretation of 12 Reed tracks. Now you can take a listen to Arthur’s version of arguably the most classic Reed cut, “Walk on The Wild Side”: It’s a bit odd at first hearing the track without its signature bass slide and Reed’s spry acoustic strumming, but by turning the track into a heaving piano ballad, Arthur gives it a fitting sense of nostalgia for Reed’s younger, wilder years.
After cutting a version of “Coney Island Baby,” Arthur set about recording the rest of Lou completely by himself, going by just one rule: no drums and no electricity. “The only way I know to give new life to something as rich with life as Lou’s songs and recordings is to go about them in a completely different way,” he writes. Arthur, who self-produced the album, kept the process as simple as possible, not trying to out-do the originals (“Impossible,” he notes), but just discovering something new within them.
“It’s odd dancing around death, odder still if the death you are dancing around is that of a legend,” Arthur writes in the liner notes. “You just never know what’s appropriate and what’s not, what to share and what to keep inside. There is no blueprint. I loved Lou and we were friends. The last thing I would want to do is turn his life into an opportunity, but at the same time, what better way to honor the man and his music than to celebrate it and sing it and record it?”
Lou is set for release on May 13th, and marks Arthur’s first record for Vanguard Records.