This is the ninth solo album in 18 years for Roxborough’s Ben Arnold, an exceptionally soulful singer/songwriter and member of the seasoned Philly-based roots-rock outfit, US Rails. Perpetually on the cusp of wider recognition, the Pittsburgh native keeps plugging along and refining his craft. Circle ’Round the Sun is the satisfying culmination of a bicoastal creative spurt, helped along by well-heeled Los Angeles pals Zach Djanikian (Amos Lee) and Shane Smith (Los Lobos), and finished off back home with â€¨support from the Hooters’ Rob Hyman and John Lilley, among others. Fans of John Hiatt and Joe Cocker should connect with the exuberant opener, “Thankful.” And while the rest of the album can’t match that torrid celebratory pace, it’s solid, folk-tinged, refreshingly honest stuff. Visit benarnold.com. —Hobart Rowland
A multimedia producer and writer, Nora Barry has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other publications. And, apparently, this Merion Station mom knows a thing or two about domestic angst. While much of this collection of short, witty essays clearly â€¨targets female readers, Barry’s biting â€¨humor and blunt honesty should connect with anyone negotiating the minefield â€¨of middle age. —Ashley Scarboro
After the 9/11 tragedy claimed a friend’s life, David Sylvester mourned as few would do. Grabbing his bicycle, he embarked on a global journey. His message to those he met across Asia, Africa and North America was simple: “Find your bike.” Hunkered down in a friend’s home in Bala Cynwyd, Sylvester came up with this honest, funny travelogue—one that proves it’s never too late to embrace what inspires you. —Emily Riley
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