Big City Secrets

Joseph Arthur, 1997

Joseph Arthur was the first American musician signed to Real World Records. Big City Secrets, the 1997 debut album, introduced his experimental folk-rock style and diverse instrumentation, adorning his songs with instruments as varied as hurdy gurdy, corn horn, Venetian xylophone, caxixi, and birimbau.

What made this album unique, though, was Arthur's unusual singing style, insightful lyrics and eclectic electronic production elements. The album was recorded at Real World Studios and produced by Markus Dravs (Bjork, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Arcade Fire).


  • He'll come on like Counting Crows one minute, the Dave Matthews Band the next, or... ...become a Leonard Cohen wannabe ... after your guard is down and you've started playing name-that-influence, he grabs your attention back with massive hooks ... May/June 1997 Option (USA)
  • Big City Secrets is provocative ear candy... ...that will provide the listener additional taste sensations the longer he spends with it. ‘Daddy's On Prozac’ will likely lure those with a wicked sense of humor, but the subdued ‘Good About Me’, the title track and the waltzing, harmonica-driven ‘Mercedes’ will still resonate after several listens. Solid and crafty, Big City Secrets should create more than mere ripples here in the States as well as his adopted home in the United Kingdom. CMJ New Music Report (USA)
  • ...a rich, mellow, free-wheeling work... hints at greatness. The Daily Telegraph (1997) (UK)
  • Arthur’s message is made intriguing by his elegantly concise language... ...and the music is full of taut rhythms against languid tunes, with a distinctive sound palette... Manchester Evening News (1997) (UK)
  • His record is like a pseudo-miraculous drug... - one that is highly addictive and one from which it will be hard to withdraw. Magic (1996) (France)
  • This is a rare debut album signed by a sincere artist. ...It deserves to be discovered. Encore (1996) (France)
  • example of true constitution, sensitivity and originality. Midi Libre (1996) (France)
  • If you miss Joseph Arthur today, you’ll hear him later... He'’s here to stay. L’affiche (1996) (France)
  • ..the only one able to quickly express the anger and love, experiences and sounds of our time. Rockerilia (1997) (Italy)
  • Joseph Arthur doesn’t need any recommendation.. ...his voice and lyrics are going to make him a rising star in the next few years. Rock Star (1997) (Italy)
  • A nightmare, splendid and not born by chance, that finds its roots in the most true songwriting. Jam (1997) (Italy)
  • Joseph Arthur is an artist worth asking about. He’s been where many of us live, on the outside, uncertain of whether a career in music was actually in the cards. And now...he’s played a winning hand... Musician (1997) (USA)
  • Arthur is a troubadour with a twist. Arthur is a troubadour with a twist. He weaves vivid and richly detailed tales, but he does so with a sense of irony that sets him far apart from the hyper-sensitive competition. Billboard (1997) (USA)
  • ..a hypnotic threading of delicious guitar flavors, ...percussive oddities, vibraphones and a godly voice that starts in a deep howl and falls into a sensuous falsetto. Hits (1997) (USA)