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10 Artists You Should Know From Philadelphia

The open-mic circuit surrounding the Philadelphia folk community is an ever-changing thing; for every aspiring artist that turns up regularly at their neighborhood’s weekly showcase, there are three more that make the rounds around the region, give it a go, and move on. The minimalist jazz-tinged duo Bethlehem and Sad Patrick is an example of permanence that sprung from this fluid environment; guitarist Patrick Arkins connected with the captivating vocalist Bethlehem Roberson at his local open mic, and they began working together to fuse her poetry with his Wes Montgomery-flavored phrasings. Their new album, Love and Other Struggles, encompasses a range of themes from romance to racism to rhapsodies about life in Philadelphia, all told through moving melodies.

Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are ready for love on latest single

Jazz-tinged duo Bethlehem and Sad Patrick write about love and other struggles, making music that softly rests upon the fragility of life: falling in and out of love, finding peace in the day to day, and staying positive despite the often touch-and-go nature of Philadelphia. In anticipation of their latest album, This Is What We Do, out August 17, the pair have released “Ready For Your Love.” Their latest single shines a warm, smoky light on all the best parts of their sound, marrying Patrick’s Wes Montgomery-esque jazz guitar lines with Bethlehem Roberson’s angelic vocals and unique body percussion, kindling a fireside style of jazz-folk minimalism that would compliment both a peaceful walk in the woods or a smoky night in a speakeasy.

“Ready For Your Love” follows lead single “Nostalgic”, a cruising upbeat track in which Roberson argues against the allure of nostalgia singing, “We were not always perfect, I know, and we were not always lots of fun / but when you get, get right down to it you know I’m the one. / Don’t you want to breathe that way again, like the whole wide world is rushing in? / Like it’s all ahead of you, like you’re just about to begin?”

Between honest storytelling, artistic ​​ekphrasis, and beautifully subtle guitar work, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are perfect compliments to one another. Their 2015 album Did You Ever Do earned them a spot on Slingshot’s “10 Artists You Should Know From Philadelphia” as well as a WXPN Key Studio Session in late 2016.

The Key Studio Sessions: Bethlehem and Sad Patrick

If you’re in search of evidence that the Philly open mic scene is very much thriving, look no further than Bethlehem and Sad Patrick.

The local duo blends the focused minimalism and poetic lyrics of folk tradition with simmering, freewheeling jazz and blues — slick guitars, soaring vocals, nuanced melodies. And it all came together by chance.

A few years back, Patrick Arkins was running an open mic at what is now Malelani Cafe in Germantown, when Bethlehem Roberson stopped by one night to sing with her family. Arkins was blown away, and when he saw her returning to the series on the regular to perform, he approached her with the idea of singing one of his songs.

This led to her singing more of his songs, which led to Bethlehem and Sad Patrick’s first home-recorded EP release in 2012. The two continued performing and collaborating, recording Bethlehem’s 2013 solo release Bigger Than Music in Sad Patrick’s spare bedroom — a space he dubbed Purple Room Studios. It’s also where they worked on songs and sounds for Did You Ever Do?, the first Bethlehem and Sad Patrick LP, released in 2015.

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Main photo by Eddie Luks