A blog for Joe Henry fans

zaterdag 22 december 2018

Songs and Photographs

Sometimes things drop in at the perfect moment…

I had an extremely busy last 3 months. When I came home from the last working day before the Christmas holidays, I found in the mail Anthony Wilson’s new record ‘Songs and Photographs’. It was an album I was looking forward to, ever since it was announced. These are maybe the two art-forms I love most. Both by an artist for whom I have a huge appreciation.

Anthony Wilson is a guitar player deeply invested in L.A.’s Jazz scene. Although he is better known as Diana Krall’s guitarist during her last tours and albums, he also performed with Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Aaron Neville, Joe Henry, … But he deserves even more credit for his own work as a front man.

I really got in to Anthony’s work with his previous album ‘Frogtown’. An album that doesn’t get the amount of spins it deserves I must admit. We are taking care of that in the following months for sure!
Soon I discovered he is also an active photographer. Shooting the things he comes across during his daily life, capturing the beauty of simple things. Life as it is, non-staged, a way of looking at things in ways we didn’t see at first.

He has combined his 2 talents in to a wonderful record ‘Songs and Photographs’. 
When I received  it, our family life didn’t offer me a chance to hear it immediately. So, the following morning we dropped the kids of at school, and I ended up home alone, and time alone.

I don’t need more to relax than the combination of music and image. It’s the most complete gift…. OK, I’m exaggerating it’s not perfect. There is 1 thing missing and that’s the coffee. But I realize that logistically it would be very difficult to spread this record with a cup of coffee.

No worries, preparing coffee, is something I can handle.

So, there I was, spending some time away from it all, only jazz, images and coffee. The record even has a subtle physical experience. The artwork is not made from shiny smooth carton, but it has a fine raw structure. It’s something to feel for yourself. The subtle differences in color of the sleeve and box, the imprinted lines in the one, but not the other make the entire set a work of art on its own. It all makes sense for what this album has become.  Kudos to Nina Holland and Little Steidl for this. It is definitely a reminder that I need to find a way to give records like that also their deserved display in our home.

Musically it is, besides the greatness of the music, an honor to witness the collaboration of these fine musicians. It’s like their minds where connected during recording. This is what you get when you put Anthony Wilson, Gerald Clayton, Joshua Crumbly, Patrick Warren and Jay Bellerose in the same room. And this with producers Joe Harley and Anthony himself steering the ship.

This complete work of art has won over my heart, and it will be present over here. (Beverages to be chosen in accordance of the atmosphere going along.)

go get it at :https://anthonywilson.bandcamp.com/


vrijdag 7 december 2018

2019 Grammy nominations

2 Albums, produced by Joe, are to be found among the Grammmy 2019 Nominees.

The Grammy winners will be announced on February 10, 2019.

Already congratulations for everyone involved in making these records !


dinsdag 23 oktober 2018

Rosanne Cash, the 'She Remembers Everything Memory Box'

Rosanne Cash's upcoming album 'She Remembers Everything' is set to be released on November 2nd.

In the wake of the latest tsunami of survivor stories, Cash has had to contend with the fact that much of what she hoped would change across her lifetime really hasn't.  It’s a reality that is reflected in her deliberate embrace of women’s narratives on the new album.  "There is a woman’s real life, complex experiences and layered understanding in these songs," Rosanne says. "I could not have written them 10 years ago—not even close. Time is shorter, I have more to say."

There will be a limited edition for this release called the 'She Remembers Everything Memory Box'.

This box includes personal letters of correspondence signed by Rosanne, and exchanged between her and T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, Sam Phillips, Joe Henry, Tucker Martine, and John Leventhal while conceptualizing the album.

Besides that, this special edition will also include :
  • Bird On A Blade illustrated book
  • 8” x 10” printed lithograph featuring an original Dan Rizzie illustration from Bird On A Blade
  • Exclusive Rosanne Cash with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams Live at SFJAZZ CD recorded at her 2017 Artist In Residency with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams
  • 180g pink disc vinyl album
  • Deluxe casebound CD
  • Digital download redemption card

Pre-order yours on her website

donderdag 18 oktober 2018

My musings on 'This too shall light'

They all made this Masterpiece !

The difficult part in writing this, is with whom do I start ? There will always be someone’s name to mention first. But there is an entire team who all helped in creating this masterpiece during those 4 days in L.A. You can hear all of them. You might not be able to pin the name to some things, but they are there.

On the other hand, it is very easy writing this, because it all started with someone having the idea of making a record, and asking Joe Henry to steer the ship, and help assemble the crew. That person is Amy Helm.

She made this true beauty, backed up by these great musicians, all of it perfectly mixed and channeled for us to listen. Not only does she have this powerful voice, but it is of a gifted beauty. Something you can enjoy extremely in f.e. ‘Heaven’s holding me’ (co-written with Paul Olsen, Theodore Pecchio and Joe Henry).
All over the album there are other voices to enjoy. Most of the time, people call them backing vocals, but I’m glad they are credited over here as Harmony Vocals. Because they’re not there to back up Amy, but to bring the song up to a higher level. Allison Russell & JT Nero (Birds of Chicago) together with Adam Minkoff (who also plays acoustic guitar) provide that, not to be underestimated, layer.

The album opens with title track ‘This too shall light’ (MC Taylor, John Kaufman).  You immediately catch the energy of what comes to you through the speakers. You can't stay passive . It lifts your spirits up. No matter how dark and long it sometimes can be,…. “This too shall light”. Jay Bellerose’s drumming builds it up beyond compare. That’s not drumming, that’s energy!  What a great song. I already need to give kudos to Ryan Freeland behind the desk. He ensures the extra greatness of this record. The reverb in this song is just 1 item that displays this. Oh, And who’s idea was it, to end the song in nothing but vocal Harmony ? Brilliant ! This song alone made me happy when I first heard it, and we’re just opening the show.
It continues with 'Odetta' (Joe Henry). Even more than Joe’s original version, this is a worship, a prayer. It's like a street parade that you can't just only watch. You join in. And the further you walk, the more people join you. Rise up !

'Michigan' (Milk Carton Kids), maybe is the most powerful song on the album.
For me, it is a song about the loss of something strong. Somehow you couldn’t bring closure to it.  When my father died years ago, it all went fast. We were expecting that call you don’t want to receive. You have to deal with it, but you can’t.
The more powerful the connection, the more it hurts.

So when she calls don't send her my way
When it hurts most it's the right thing

Michigan's in the rearview now
Keep your hands where I can see them
You took the words right out of my mouth
When you knew that I would need them
What am I supposed to do now
Without you

There where the original displays the sadness, Amy’s version shows you how much it hurts, and after this one, you know how much. What a strong performance !

Allen Toussaint’s ‘Freedom for the stallion’ remains a necessary song in these times. Keep it in mind when you need to choose your leaders. It’s recorded on this album, as if they where standing in a cathedral. Amy Helm’s voice can carry it.  The Guitar playing by Doyle Bramhall II is clear in the mix, just like it is in ‘Mandolin Wind’ (Rod Stewart). 'The stones that I throw' (Jaime Robbie Robertson) remembers us, that our choices, everyone’s actions, can help create a better world. After that we get 'Long Daddy Green' (Blossom Dearie, David L. Frishberg), a very atmospheric song about elements from the past that, at the time, seemed a good thing, but turned out otherwise. Slowly you forget them, but never completely. There is always a moment it’s brought back to your memory. It haunts you, just like this song. It is followed by a wonderful 'River of Love' (T Bone Burnett).

So now, we’re only left with friends in ‘Gloryland’. A traditional arranged by Amy Helm and her late father Levon Helm. A true gospel of saying goodbye to this life.

so weep not friends, I'm going home…


zondag 23 september 2018

Lizz Wright, Turnhout, Belgium 22 sept. 2018

How we are treated over here !

Within 6 months we get to see Lizz Wright perform over here in Belgium.

She visited us with almost the same band as last time in Brussels. (The only change was Martin Kolarides on guitar)
The Musicians played the intro, Lizz walked on stage and gave us a little thing to get used to.  What happened to that wonderful long hair of yours? But, like she told us, "If your grandmother says it's much better that way, who are we to disagree?". But let's get on with the important stuff.

The show opened, just like in Brussels with 'Barley', followed by her wonderful rendition of 'Old Man' (Neil Young). After that the concert followed a different path. While last April, the emphasis was on her new songs from Grace,  yesterday we received a broader setlist of her songbook. It implied f.e. that we got to hear her perform Joe's 'Stop (Don't tell me)'. It is necessary over here to credit Nicholas D'Amato for that fantastic improvisation on Bass he did in this song. And it is only fair that I continue with the entire band : Bobby Sparks on Piano and Hammond, Brannen Temple on Drums, and off course Martin Kolarides on Guitar. Great together, but they also, all had their solo moments in the show, and received a well deserved aplausse from the audience for it. It fitted wonderfully with Lizz's singing. Every now and then, she took the tambourine, to add some more rhythm. And does she have rhythm ! And does she have a beautiful tambourine. I'm serious here, I'm really jealous of that object. If I'm not mistaken, it displays a wonderful seashell ?

The concert gradually build up to its highlights 'Grace' and 'Seems I'm never tired of loving you'. Stunning performances, but  I'll be honest over here, I'm still hoping to hear these songs with a live gospel choir.
After the encore, the houselights went on, and when we were already making our way out, Lizz came back on stage. "I realised I didn't say goodnight to you all"  And with that, she sweetly ended the evening and wished us a good night, and a safe trip home.

Slowly, reports are coming in that she will be back in our regions, again after 6 months. Oh, how we are treated over here....
Don't forget that Gospel choir now.


If you remember from the last time at her concert I wrote a little bit on Smartphone use. We sat verry close to the stag this time, and the seat next to me was empty. As if the Devil himself was involved, as soon as the houselights went off, a more professional (seeing her equipment) came to sit next to me for half of the show, and shot pictures with a lens long enough to hit my head from where she was sitting. click-click-click next to my ear, followed by checking the display if the picture was useful.

zondag 9 september 2018

Writing in Ireland

As you know, Joe is spending some time in Ireland these days. He recently finished producing a record for Rhiannon Giddens, and upcoming there are 5 concerts.

Besides that, there is also a Masterclass by Joe, Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard, followed by the last concert in the region.

Helas, the last show at Burren College is already sold out.

But Joe's work doesn't stop with these things. On top of that, Joe is there to write !

In a radio interview, that is now available as the David Fanning Podcast, Joe explaines that he was invited by Burren College in Ballyvaughan to do a 1,5 month long writing residency.
Follow the link below and listen to Joe talking about it. But keep up, because that showhost can speak mighty fast! (It's also a 20 minutes talk about Joe's influences and work.)


Oh, speaking of writing : Joe announced that a poem of his would be published for the first time in the New Yorker. You can find that one by following https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/10/death-of-sound

But now,  how is that writing going on in Ireland?

zaterdag 8 september 2018

Shuffletown on Vinyl

Last week, Joe's 3th album Shuffletown was released on vinyl. Ever since its release in 1990, this is the first time this album is released on Vinyl.

'Why is this one pressed on Vinyl ?', is not the correct question to ask. The question is: 'does it deserve to have such a re-release after 28 ! years?' Joe ,Is it something you need to grab your breath for, for a second ?

... Where did time go ? Sandy Denny already asked that question in 1967.

Shuffletown, and certainly the making of it, is maybe the most important album for Joe Henry. Produced by T. Bone Burnett, it marked the beginning of a journey that, today, still is on-going.
I'm sure there always would have come a 'Shuffletown', but where would Joe be today, if T Bone,  musical genius and mountain was not behind the desk? If he did not step in to Joe's life?

Perhaps it was ment to be ? I mean if your full name is Joseph Henry Burnett, what are the odds your path crosses Joseph Lee Henry...

T Bone presented Joe an other way of recording music. The album was recorded in 3 days, with a band performing the music live. Today, Joe himself is known for using this way of producing. The result of it are all gems for the artists he worked and works for.  All those albums are simply amazing.
Today this is a comfortable way of working for Joe, who sometimes has to convince artists of this method, but at the time of Shuffletown it was a new and nervous-making approach¹ for Joe.

But this, to me, is actually a small practical outcome of it all. Joe himself said he learned that, when recording music  you're engaging something that's already in play and you're trying to abide it.¹
We are only the medium to get this art out there. It is about the songs in the first place. And these songs deserve an honest chance. And when it comes to this, what is more honest then trying to grasp that moment when the musicians play together, and how they play together ? Trying to reproduce take after take after take is not a good idea when it comes to that. That is why T Bone Burnett wanted 'Shuffletown' to be recorded on an analog 2 track, instead of a multitrack. That way he ensured that no one would be able to "fuck with it" later.¹ 

The album was released, but it left Joe without a record deal. On the positive side, Joe could start working as a production assistant for T Bone. Joe had found his mentor, and he evolved in the great producer, and musicmaker he is today.

Shuffletown is a beautiful album. Its cover presents you 2 images. A boy holding 2 pigeons next to a boy holding down another kid. White next to brown/orange... I'll let your mind shuffle with it.

But Shuffletown does really exist. It's a community that grew around 'Shuffletown Dragway'. It's actually a bit cynical that the dragway had to dissapear because people living in the community started complaining about the noise of the dragway (that originated the community).

But back to the music. Everyone familiar with T Bone and Joe's work will recognise the clear sound of all the musicians evolved in this record. I personally am most in love with the mandolin and accordion sounds nestling in my ear. But what else can you expect with such great musicians, backing Joe up. David Mansfield (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash), Cecil McBee(Wayn Shorter, Keith Jarrett), Phil Kelly, Michael Blair(Tom Waits), Charlie Giordano(Bruce Springsteen), Don Cherry(Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins)  and T Bone Burnett.

Today, it is really nice to hear these songs so fresh on vinyl. It's been a long time since Joe has played them live, but I know his audience sometimes request them. I f.e. remember someone asking 'John Hanging' during a concert. (We didn't get to hear it by the way). It doesn't matter, I'll let Joe choose for what he feels comfortable that evening, because that's the most honest towards the song.

So yes, I do believe this album deserves the re-release on vinyl. 


1 : A life in pursuit, Lloyd Sachs