A blog for Joe Henry fans

maandag 21 april 2014

Croatian Joe Henry Radio special

Croatian radio klfm had a JH special in their show, called exit. The following podcast comes from their site.

I translated the opening article. I thank a croatian friend of mine to filter the mistakes out of my translation. Although, for certain parts, he actually re-translated them.
Thanks man !

Joe Henry

Joe Henry is relatively unknown, yet an ubiquitous musician. A songwriter who escapes from classification under that name , whose oeuvre could only seemingly be defined between country and blues bookends and is filled with a number of influences and styles that eventually manage to add up to his own, distinctive melancholic ballad sound.

Nevertheless, his albums are not sold in large circulation, and critics, unfairly, rarely remember him in preparing the annual list of top albums. Especially because Joe Henry in his nearly three decades long career, has made several truly excellent achievements, incomparable with anything within the rest of the scene . The situation becomes absurd to the extent that Henry is even better known as a producer, composer, author, of songs for other artists - among other things, F.e. he wrote songs for Roseanne Cash, Madeleine Peyroux, and even for his own wife’s sister.

Joe is married since 1987 to Melanie Ciccone, sister of ultrapolular Madonna, and in the end, the media has used this fact in a stupid and perfidious manner, watching his career through the prism of perhaps the biggest national pop star in the late eighties. At the same time , critics have held the young songwriter down, rudely comparing him with individual musicians who unquestionably influenced him ; specifically Tom Waits (his pre Island Records years, ending with the album Heartattack & Vine), and Lyle Lovett, who is much closer to Joe’s generation( they both recorded their first album in 1986. ) . Such critics-rampage discourages artists on the rise and can result in counter-effect by keeping them in the framework which the media have imposed. Therefore, Henry's relative detachment is consequence of his caution, rather than some sort of elitist retreat from the public eye.

Joseph Lee Henry was born on 2 December 1960th in Charlotte, NC; a state which otherwise is known as a 'nursery ' for excellent songwriters. He grew up in Michigan, in the mid -eighties he lived a short time in New York, and by the end of the decade he settled in Los Angeles. The first two albums where created during his stay in Brooklyn, and represent a kind of search. The legendary ‘Shuffletown’ (1989) finally profiled Henry's term, which will finesse in the sanded ‘Short Man’s Room’ (1992) and ‘Kindness of the World’ (1993).  In these three albums an important part was played by associates like T-Bone B., who produced Shuffletown and the members of Jayhawks who helped record the next two albums.
By mid-nineties, Joe Henry has come up with a pattern that he wouldn't change much in the years to come, apart from minor improvements in style, by dressing occasional half-finished compositions in soul, jazz, funk and bluegrass arrangements.
However, the underlying template is generally the same: a melancholy, smoky –bar, nocturnal sound. But at the same time painful and glittering daily, with hints of midday sun in empty warehouses and dilapidated brick buildings.
Joe Henry’s work is closer to poetry than just music. Although both parameters play an important role in forming the final poetic form and musical experience. One gets the impression that verses are the main axis of Henry's creation. Although that is an undeniable fact, it does not mean that the music in his case, plays merely a supporting role.

Having strengthened his own position, Henry could relax somewhat, which enabled him to a more casual approach to writing and composing. The result is visible in a series of excellent albums from 1996 onwards: Trampoline, Fuse, Scar, Tiny Voices, Civilian, Blood from the Stars, with the last time being, acoustic Reverie from 2011. (keeping in mind a three-year average distance between each album. In 2014, we can expect a new album).

As already mentioned, in time: Henry has become an accomplished producer. The list of his 'clients' consists of Jim White, Hugh Laurie, Billy Bragg, Ramblin ' Jack Elliott, Kristin Hersch, Ani Difranco, Aimee Mann and many other respected names. Only rarely he leaves the production of his own album in other hands. In such cases, he chooses very specific collaborators. - in addition to the already mentioned T - Bone Burnett he worked with Daniel Lanois ( Fuse album ., 1999) or Craig Street , whose influence is clearly visible on the jazzy Scar ( 2001). .
Similar to producers, visiting ‘elite’ musicians have undergone Henry’s rigid selection - just to mention Marc Ribot, Ornette Coleman, Carla Azar and Don Byron.

To end  with Henry's distinctive views on the music scene, and the associated departure from the music, and media mainstream: A statement by Steve Earle , which explains the difference between studio and concert versions of his excellent track Molly - O from the album I'll Never Get Out From This World Alive :

“It’s a song, that exists because I have a friend called Joe Henry, who is pretty much the best songwriter ever. And he wrote a song about a serial killer in the 1800s that made me so jealous I could spit. So I couldn’t rest until I wrote something at least that fucked up.”

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