Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

dinsdag 30 december 2014

The upcoming Rodney Crowell/Emmylou Harris album

Like many of us on some social media, Rodney Crowell  also spoke about his highlights of 2014. He ended his beautiful written story with some insights on the upcoming album.

The album will be called "The travelling kind", and will be released next spring.

Lastly, I’m hoping the duet album Emmylou and I recorded this past summer, with Joe Henry producing, is as good as I think it is. I can’t speak for Emmy, but for me, it’s a record I’ve always wanted to make. “The Traveling Kind” comes out in the spring.

Happy New Year,


vrijdag 26 december 2014

Worthy : Pre-listen a track

You can pre-listen a first track of Bettye LaVette's new album Worthy (Produced by Joe).  More info

It's her version of Dylan's 'Unbelievable'

Listen to Bettye's version on  www.rollingstone.com

Worthy will be released on January 27. 

woensdag 24 december 2014

RCA studio A saved

Earlier on I blogged about the uncertain future of Historic RCA studio A in Nashville.

RollingStone.com brings us the news that it is saved from Demolition.

Today saw a happy ending to a story that's galvanized passionate responses from musicians the likes of Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl — the fight to save Nashville's RCA Studio A. According to the Nashville Scene, Curb Records founder Mike Curb has teamed up with Tennessee philanthropists Chuck Elcan and Aubrey Preston to buy the studio in a deal that closed this afternoon.

Are you wondering now what the Link with Joe Henry was again ?

It's this amazing rendition of 'Sunday Morning Coming Down'.

maandag 22 december 2014

Live from High Fidelity Podcast

Live from High Fidelity has a fantastic podcast, with, an almost 3 hour long, conversation with Joe Henry and Jay Bellerose.

Divided in 2 parts, you can listen to a wonderful conversation between these 2 friends/musical brothers and hosts Tom DeSavia & Eric Gorfain. Hear them speak on how they met, how it all began and evolved for them.

But also a wonderful insight on the inspiration, creation and recording of Joe's album 'Reverie', and the story behind writing Richard Pryor's Biography.

The podcast is availably at iTunes.
(The 2 parts are the podcasts released on 12/21/14)

vrijdag 19 december 2014

End of the year press

Lots of praise for Joe Henry these days to be found in the press.

about Invisible Hour : 

Ann Powers calls Joe Henry's 13th album "A meditation on unmarriage, on life and death, on all the big issues. It's enriched by his incredible literary knowledge. There's a song that references Melville, a song that references Alice Munro. I can sink into this album for days and weeks on end."

Josh Hurst
 ....It is also his masterwork—and given how much I like his other albums, that’s saying quite a bit.

Routs and Branches
 Such beautiful and evocative work, self-produced and pared to its essence.  It's almost as though Henry has drifted into a genre all his own over the past decade.  More than any other album on this list, Invisible Hour is pure poetry.

I wonder if the time is ripe for the music of Joe Henry to receive the recognition it deserves. One might say that, if it wasn't with albums such as "Scar" and "Civilians",time may not ever mature....
........(Invisible hour is) simply inevitable as each disc of Joe Henry is.

I suppose he inhabits a style somewhere between Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Whilst he has a background in what is termed these days as Americana he manages to mix in jazzy touches that delightfully embellish the songs. “Invisible Hour” is an LP that I have found myself lost in whilst on my constitutionals with our faithful hound, little realising what time has passed.

Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is so relentlessly, ridiculously beyond good that speaking about it reduces me to gibberish. It is my Top 10 for 2014. I don’t mean to say that it is at the top of the list, no, it is the entire list. - See more at: http://www.nippertown.com/#sthash.hCk2rR2q.dpuf
Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is so relentlessly, ridiculously beyond good that speaking about it reduces me to gibberish. It is my Top 10 for 2014. I don’t mean to say that it is at the top of the list, no, it is the entire list.
Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is so relentlessly, ridiculously beyond good that speaking about it reduces me to gibberish. It is my Top 10 for 2014. I don’t mean to say that it is at the top of the list, no, it is the entire list. - See more at: http://www.nippertown.com/#sthash.hCk2rR2q.dpuf
Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is so relentlessly, ridiculously beyond good that speaking about it reduces me to gibberish. It is my Top 10 for 2014. I don’t mean to say that it is at the top of the list, no, it is the entire list. - See more at: http://www.nippertown.com/#sthash.hCk2rR2q.dpuf

about the Wexford Carols :

When dealing with the old songs Joe Henry succeeds again to set the arrangements to the right level. To create the harmonious atmosphere for the sung stories in songs like shepherds, angels, the Three Kings, "The Virgin Queen of Bethlehem" and "The Darkest Midnight in December". Scarcity and wealth, the emotions properly dosed in balance. The fine singers and instrumentalists facilitate Henry's task of course enormously.

about Bitter Tears Revisited

First thing to say here is that Look Again To The Wind is a perfect Christmas present for anyone who has any interest in American country music. Like the soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou it’s crammed full of excellent songs, excellently played by some of the best artists around. As a concept it’s interesting, as an album it’s little short of magnificent. 

Half a century later, Cash’s vision retains its power, offering a welcome reminder of why the album might endure despite digital technology’s fragmenting force.  

About Worthy

(Blogger note : As far as I know, Thankful 'N Thoughtful was not produced by Joe, but by Craig Street.)

Again praise to this much sought-after producer, who can be verry selective and careful in picking new projects. Over and over again he seems to be capable of delivering an absolute top product.


Jeff Schwachter
My dream: An acoustic tour on heels of an album of new acoustic Dylan songs with Bob playing them all on guitar with Joe Henry producing and playing on the affair.

donderdag 18 december 2014

Joe's favorite roadside eats.

hometown-pasadena.com has a review of a cooking book which apparently has a small Joe Henry contribution.

It's the book Fiore Market Cafe Fresh Cookbook. 
Fiore Market Cafe is a restaurant in South Pasadena.

The last third of Fresh is a series of Q&A profiles with regular Fiore patrons, such as singer songwriter Joe Henry and Melanie Ciccone. Phil Donohue and South Pasadena resident Afton Figueroa list their favorite, most “delectable roadside eats.”

donderdag 11 december 2014

On "Bitter Tears Revisited"

The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting view on 'cover projects'. like Bitter Tears Revisited. 

The more rewarding cover albums shine a light on forgotten or overlooked gems, like a recent project revisiting a potent but little-remembered concept album exploring the plight of American Indians, “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited” (Sony Music Masterworks). 

More than reclaiming a lost masterpiece, the album requires a reappraisal of Cash’s ties to the era’s politically conscious folk music scene. In a fascinating twist, the music industry and the cresting civil rights movement rejected Cash’s attempt to link the two causes. Half a century later, Cash’s vision retains its power, offering a welcome reminder of why the album might endure despite digital technology’s fragmenting force. 

“I’ve been reading for years and years the demise of the album as a format, but I don’t buy it, and I don’t pay any heed to it,” says “Bitter Tears Revisited” producer Joe Henry. “I don’t work on any project that isn’t meant to play as a full album. Not everybody listens to records in real time beginning to end in sequence. Not everybody’s going to listen the way we wish they did. But anyone who’s willing to meet the work that way should be rewarded for it.”

woensdag 10 december 2014

JH interview about 'Furious Cool'

Austin, Texas based KUT news has an interview with Joe on the book Furious Cool, a biography of Richard Pryor. Joe wrote it together with his brother David Henry.
The book was released last year. 

woensdag 3 december 2014

Joe Henry & Sam Phillips to perform in LA

Joe Henry and Sam Phillips will be performing together in Largo at the Coronet in LA.

The shows are entitled : "Alone and Together -Sharing a band and the evening-"

The shows will be on February 21 and 22.

Tickets for the 21th
Tickets for the 22nd

It's not the first time Joe and Sam wil do something together, in 2003 Joe produced Sam's unreleased album 'wedding in Cherokee county'.  

Joe Henry's favorite Christmas music.

 On Patheos.com : Jeffrey Overstreet is giving several musicians a platform to talk about their favorite Christmas albums.
First in line : Joe Henry.

Read it here.

dinsdag 2 december 2014

Happy Birthday : Joe Henry !

Today we send out our best wishes to you Joe.

Have a great day.


zondag 23 november 2014

The Wexford Carols : "It brings extra beauty in our home."

‘Ireland’s greatest Christmas music’ is written on the back of the CD I have in front of me.
Yes, it is Christmas music, but naming this a Christmas album would not honor this album enough. A Christmas album is one that gets played in the appropriate period and then disappears in the attic for a year, together with all the decorations. This album does not fit that picture. No, it will find its place between all my CD’s, because it is not merely a great ‘Christmas album’, it simply is … ‘a great album’.

“Another victim of time, this Devereux carol is no longer sung in Wexford and its tune has been forgotten.”
This quote about ‘A virgin queen in Bethlehem’ in the booklet represents maybe the importance of this album. Caitríona O’Leary has been fascinated by the Wexford Carols for over 20 years, and brings them back to live. She has done a lot of research to bring this music, with the utmost respect to the original tunes. This fact alone makes it a must have, since the original music seemed lost. 

But there is much more. I have been listening to it now for a couple of weeks and it brings extra beauty in our home.
I had never heard Caitríona’s music. She has a wonderful voice, and an amazing vocal range. The first words of opening track ‘Tell Shepherds’ immediately set the atmosphere. With merely these 2 words she grabs your attention, and keeps it for the entire album. 

She is accompanied on the album by 3 guests. Rhiannon Giddens brings us a wonderful version of  ‘Now to conclude our Christmas Mirth’, Tom Jones sings ‘The Angell said to Joseph Mild’ like I never heard him sing before, and Rosanne Cash gently lays me down on a pillow with ‘Behold three kings’.  Apart from these songs, they all bring their welcome contribution to several songs. 

Lots of great ‘listening’ songs, but also songs like ‘An angel this bright Midnight’ which is a very rhythmical, hypnotic and joyful song, and in the end ‘Christmas day is come’ swings us to the closing track of the album : ‘The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol’, which is sung by these four wonderful voices in close harmony. 

Joe Henry produced this album, and he did it with the same respect Caitríona treated the history of The Wexford Carols. He also brought in longtime collaborator and Sound engineer Ryan Freeland. It’s like not 1 instrument or voice is pushed to the back. You can hear it all so clear, each littlest sound. It’s like all these musicians are live in the room with me.  They all deserve a big applause. And yes, I will name all of them, so stand up : Dónal Lumny, John Smith, Adrian Hart, ´Éamonn de Barra, Kate Ellis, Greg Cohen, Mel Mercier and Graham Hopkins. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone)

All this delivered with a wonderful lay-out. Even the booklet got the deserved treatment. Great photos by Laelia Milleri, accompanied by info on the separate tunes and history on the Carols.

If all this doesn’t convince you to get this album, then still do, and listen to it. That will do the trick.

Now let’s give it another spin.

donderdag 13 november 2014

'Worthy' By Bettye Lavette

Info on Bettye Lavette's new album is coming in

releasedate : January 27, 2015

On the album we will find also Bettye's version of the Joe Henry song  'stop'.

On Worthy, Bettye revisits Dylan with the opening track Unbelievable, with a funky urgency introduced into the song, not present in the original. On When I Was a Young Girl, she slides effortlessly into a slinky groove which Chris Youlden of Savoy Brown probably never imagined. Bless Us All is as relevant now as when Mickey Newbury wrote it decades ago, while her rendition of Joe Henry's own Stop is jazzy, soulful and reminds one not to dare try to stop her. The musicians on the album all brought their A-game to the plate: Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, Doyle Bramall II on guitar, Chris Bruce on bass and Patrick Warren on Piano, Hammond organ and Chamberlin.

Worthy is comprised of a special selection of songs making for an extremely reflective, visceral, yet at the same time, vulnerable album. Where a Life Goes is a conversation between Bettye and her deceased sister. When she sings the Lennon/McCartney track Wait and the title track Worthy, Bettye is at her most insightful and satisfied. Perhaps, the most heart-wrenching tunes of the lot may be Undamned filled with quiet desperation, and Just Between You and Me and the Wall You're a Fool, on which she wears her tattered and battered heart on her sleeve.


  • Unbelievable
  • When I Was A Young Girl
  • Bless Us All
  • Stop
  • Undamned
  • Complicated
  • Where A Life Goes
  • Just Between You And Me And The Wall You're a Fool
  • Wait
  • Step Away
  • Worthy

There will also be a Deluxe Edition which also includes a live DVD of a Lavette concert from June 2014 at the Jazz Cafe in London.

Update January 3, 2015
Great article on the recordings, technical info also. 

Update January 13, 2015
Interview with Bettye Lavette for Deep Soul Express  with an entire song analysis.

About hooking u again with Joe :
“We’ve always talked about doing another album, but the company kept coming up with other ideas. When we met at Carnegie Hall, at the Paul Simon tribute, a while back, we thought that it would be a good idea to do it now.” 

About "Stop" :
I had asked to do it on the first Anti- thing, but then they decided it was going to be all women songs.  The next thing was with Drive-By Truckers, and they didn’t want Stop on that.  The next thing was the British songs, and of course it wasn’t going on that.  On the last one the producer himself didn’t want it on it, so now I said ‘okay Joe, I’m gonna bring up a tune I’ve been trying to bring up for ten years and see, if you go for it’.  He said ‘well, I’m not going to turn it down’.” 

vrijdag 31 oktober 2014

Nell Robinson & the Rose of No Man's Land

I missed this one apparently.

Joe Henry produced Nell Robinson's new album 'Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man's Land.'
It was already recorded back in 2012, I think. And at that moment Nell was already working on it for 4 years.

Now, the Album will finally be released on November 4th.

Read the pressrelease. (which already dates from september I think).

Next to Nell, the album features : two-time Grammy Winner & National Medal of Arts recipient Ramblin’ Jack Elliott; actor, poet and musician John Doe; actor and songwriter Kris Kristofferson; as well, award-winning author Maxine Hong Kingston; and acclaimed actress Kathy Baker

Joe Henry used her performing band as well as other musicians including: Grammy-winning Greg Liesz on slide guitar, bluegrass favorite Jim Nunally (guitar, vocals); Levon Henry on clarinet; string stalwart Keith Little (mandolin, vocals); bassist David Piltch Zach Harmon (percussion); and Craig Eastman on fiddle.  

About the album :
The songs of 'Nell Robinson & The Rose of No-Man’s Land' integrate the heritage of her own Alabama family serving in 250 years of war. Most of the source material for the songs are from archived letters, documents, mementos and generational lore, all centered on war and service. Beginning with Revolutionary War to the present. 

Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell wrote two original songs for the album. 1 song (Happy to go) Robinson wrote together with Jim Nunally.  Next to that there are a few orginals songs by Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe.

The album will be  presented november 1th in the center for the arts, Grass Valley, CA95945
On Stage, Nell Robinson will be acompanied by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Joyce Maynard, and her band, featuring Jim Nunally (guitar), Jim Carlin (bass), Zach Harmon (percussion) and Levon Henry (clarinet, saxophone). Pete Grant of Auburn will sit in on slide guitar for this show. (source)

Some pictures of this event.

Also : Earlier this year, a PBS crew taped Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage Coffee House. It will be a segment of a 2015 show on PBS called “Music Gone Public.”

 Prelisten 2 stunning tracks from the album

Update November 12

Nell Robinson on working with Joe :(source)

"....The recording process was both magical and deeply scary. Joe Henry and his family and the musicians he brought in made me feel so comfortable. Joe brought an ease to the process, an organic approach that I loved. He left the mics on even during rehearsals and sometimes we just entered a song in an unplanned way…and that was it. I had been singing these songs for a few years, and in a particular style, mostly bluegrass arrangements. When I was preparing to record with Joe, I wanted to break out of my habits and be completely open to where Joe might take the process. So I worked with a jazz musician to reinterpret traditional versions and rhythms for songs like “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.” Jim Nunally was incredibly helpful, he and I ran each song in several keys. The first song we recorded in the studio was “Blue-Eyed Boston Boy,” and I don’t think that went very well to start with. I was singing in a key I was not accustomed to and I felt vulnerable and nervous. Later, adding my harmonies to John Doe and Jack Elliott’s [vocals], these guys are so good and so experienced that I felt unworthy...."

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dinsdag 28 oktober 2014

Joe Henry on Vintage Guitars

There is one thing I absolutely adore seeing with people during a conversation. It is the twinkle in their eyes when they start talking about their passion, I just love listening to them. I think Joe has that twinkle when it comes  around to vintage guitars. Those of you who know Joe a little bit, know his love for these wonderful instruments.

I wanted to ask Joe to talk a little bit about his passion, and I had that opportunity. Therefore I need to send out a big thank you to Joe’s management for making this article possible.

          - But mostly, of course, thank you Joe Henry for offering these insights!

JH: There is much to address here; but to begin…guitars are very romantic things to me: mysterious and evolving; no two alike –even two of the same model and vintage. They all have something different to tell you, and invite different things from you.

          - In Fretboard Journal n°26 you said: “I knew that on his first record Bob Dylan played a Gibson J-50 and I was deeply invested in Woody Guthrie at that time”(1) . Did your love for vintage guitars started with seeing your heroes play them?

JH: When I was young and impressionable –in that way that only a naïve young person can be—sure: I made note of what guitars my heroes played –for style as much as sound; and I noted early on that Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson all played not only Gibson guitars, but most specifically, small-bodied models: Woody long-associated with a mid 30s Gibson L-00; Bob Dylan –in his seminal years 1963-1966—almost exclusively playing a Gibson Nick Lucas Special from 1930 (same body shape as Woody’s L-00, but fancier and with deeper body dimensions; and Robert Johnson most notably associated with a late-20s Gibson L-1 –a precursor to the L-00. And because I admired these artists so greatly, I found the similarities in their choices to be significant, and formed an attachment to the idea of these models.

          - But it was only later on in your life, that you got to play such instruments yourself?

JH: I was in my mid 40s, honestly, before I ever saw or played ANY of them in person. I responded to them romantically, and then discovered that their unique sound –owing to light construction, short body scale, etc., contributed to a feel and the harmonic overtones that I found speak so vividly to me.

          - Thinking about it, the evolution of your love for these vintage guitars, (and probably any man’s passion) I see a comparison to ‘falling in love’ with a person, which then slowly grows into ‘loving’ a person.

JH: Yes, One does grow into the relationship with an instrument like one does with a person; and it is part of the magic of the convergence.

”Tom Waits is right, of course”

During Joe’s last concert in Boston someone in the audience asked about his guitar. He said that “his Gibson was from 1935 and his other guitar was custom built from mahogany wood that was salvaged from a sunken ship….”(2)

            - The story triggered my curiosity. So I couldn’t resist asking if it was a true story.
JH: the story is completely true –about a new Martin 000-17 from their custom shop. It was made from what they refer to as “sinker mahogany,” which literally means it was dredged from the bottom of a lake/channel/ocean, dried/cured for years, then used for guitar construction.

              - I really need to look up some more about that, it intrigues me. You know, even if it was just a story, Tom Waits would probably say: “does it really improve the story if it’s true?”(3)

JH: He is right, of course, that the truth of the story doesn’t make the guitar sound better.

I did search some more info on Sinker Mahogany, and especially for these Martin Custom guitars. “Sinker Mahogany has its origins in the Central American country of Belize roughly 300 years ago when the British felled massive, 250-300 year-old trees ideal for shipbuilding.” (4) Read the full story at the hub . A wonderful and amazing story.

Over the last years, Joe has also found a love for new guitars. New guitars based on Vintage guitars.  New Era guitars designs and makes custom guitars. Joe is 1 of their clients. This relationship has grown into some ’Joe Henry signature’ guitars, which are all based on vintage models.  

“It is turning into something quite special and should continue to. I have never had a romance with a new instrument, but am with this one.”(5)

And it did continue. Fretboard Journal had, just recently, an interview with Tony Klassen, the beating heart behind New Era Guitars. 

TK: It’s been a real pleasure working with Joe. He loves my work, and often will give me little updates on the guitars, his travels, recordings and the people who get to play them. It’s very exciting for me. Our first project together was taking the Senorita S-6 and converting it to a 12-fret version. Without Joe’s input I don’t think I would have ventured to do this. The outcome was pretty amazing and really changed the tone of the Senorita. Mellow, deep and responsive. Our next project will be another 12 fret configuration of a 1930s Tonk Washburn. I can’t wait!(6)

           - So a new Joe Henry signature guitar is coming up, and of course, also we can’t wait. Could you give a little more info about it?

JH: It is still in the design phase, but Tony and I are working on a model together based on a Regal guitar from the mid-30s, but with variations based on my favorite Gibson guitars –most notably a short-scale.

In that same fretboard interview(6) Tony Klassen gave away, that Joe has named the guitar ‘The Bellwether’.
These days, in sociology, a bellwether refers to a person or group who tends to create, influence or set new trends.
Is there a more wonderful name you can give to a musical instrument?

           - One last question Joe: Do you know in advance, for certain songs, which guitar will sound best for a tune? Or is it more like ‘trial and error’?

JH: I have many guitars out on stands all over my house and studio; and when I am working on a new song, I walk around and frequently play what I am working on on different guitars; and then invariably I’ll hear it more fully in one particular instrument. “Oh, it’s in THIS one,” I say, then focus with that guitar.


(1)    www.fretboardjournal.com (issue 26)
(2)    http://concertmanic.com/2014/07/08/concert-review-joe-henry-6272014/
(3)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9kWrB6D0bQ (3:20 min)
(4)    http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/featured-private-reserve-guitars/martin-custom-sinker-mahogany-dreadnought-crafted-with-rare-wood-retrieved-from-the-depths
(5)    http://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/online/joe-henrys-ark-new-era-guitars
(6)    http://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/online/bench-press-new-era-guitars
And also thank you David, for showing directions to lots of info.