A blog for Joe Henry fans

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.

maandag 27 oktober 2014

Exploring Social change in Pop Music

On October 12, 2014 Joe Henry was a special guest at All Saints Church Pasadena 's event called 'Profitable Prophets, Exploring Social Change in Pop Music.'

This event was a debate on the role, and effect of Social Change in the Music Industry.

Main guest was Jeff Castelaz : President of Elektra Records and Co-Founder of both Cast Management and, with his wife Jo Ann Thrailkill, The Pablove Foundation.  He also Co-Founded and was CEO of Los Angeles-based Dangerbird Records.

Joe entered as a special guest at approx. 20:45 in the video.
Listen to him speak about wich artists he considers as Prophets in music, and hear him answer some audience questions. 

donderdag 23 oktober 2014

The Wexford Carols to be released

US release date : November 4
UK release date : November 3
recordlabel : Hersey records

To promote this new Caitríona O'Leary Album, wich Joe Henry produced, a website has been put online.


A wonderful promotional video featering Caitríona O’Leary, Rosanne Cash, Sir Tom Jones and Eric Fraad (founder and director of Heresy Records)

Caitríona O’Leary –Voice
Rhiannon Giddens – Voice, Fiddle, Minstrel Banjo
Rosanne Cash – Voice
Tom Jones – Voice

Adrian Hart – Fiddle
Eamonn de Barra – Flute, Whistle
John Smith – Voice, Guitar, Mandola
Dónal Lunny – Bouzuki
Kate Ellis – Cello
Greg Cohen – Double Bass
Mel Mercier – Bodhrán, Bones
Graham Hopkins – Voice, Drums

Joe Henry, Producer
Ryan Freeland, Recording Engineer, Mix and Master

01 – Tell Shepherds – Caitríona O’Leary, Singer
02 – An Angel This Night – Caitríona O’Leary, Singer
03 – Jerusalem Our Happy Home – Tom Jones, Singer, Caitríona O’Leary & Rhiannon Giddens Backing Vocals
04 – This Is Our Christmass Day – Caitríona O’Leary, Singer
05 – Now To Conclude Our Christmas Mirth – Rhiannon Giddens, Singer, Tom Jones & Caitríona O’Leary Backing Vocals
06 – The Darkest Midnight In December – Caitríona O’Leary, Singer
07 – An Angel This Bright Midnight – Rosanne Cash, Caitríona O’Leary, John Smith, Graham Hopkins Vocals
08 – Behould Three Kings – Rosanne Cash, Singer, Caitríona O’Leary, John Smith, Graham Hopkins Backing Vocals
09 – The Angell Said To Joseph Mild – Tom Jones, Singer, Caitríona O’Leary, Rosanne Cash & Rhiannon Giddens, Backing Vocals
10 – A Virgin Queen In Bethlehem – Caitríona O’Leary, Singer
11 – Christmas Day Is Come – Rhiannon Giddens & Caitríona O’Leary, Vocals
12 – The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol – Rosanne Cash, Rhiannon Giddens, Caitríona O’Leary, Tom Jones, Vocals

for an interesting article, on the history of these Carols, visit : http://www.patrickcomerford.com .
(And living in Belgium, I am verry proud to say, the history even brings us back to Ghent.)


Update October 27, 2014.
Heresy Records linked us an interview with Joe Henry where he speaks briefly about this project.
Read it here.  

 Update November 29, 2014.
Interesting clip on Joe's approach.

Update December 15, 2014.
In a radio interview Tom Jones explained that he got involved because Joe Henry contacted him.

Update December 20, 2014
from the la times

"I'm such a lover of music from that part of the world," said Henry, noting that he has Irish lineage in the distant past on his father's side of his family. As much has he has previously explored the roots of American music in many of its forms, "I had not heard these songs before. I knew they were from a larger canon, but it was one I had not immersed myself in."

Henry, who lives in South Pasadena, invited Jones, Cash and Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens to be part of the recording sessions, and contributed vocals on some numbers. He described it as a profound honor to work with revered Irish bouzouki player Donal Lunny, who helped O'Leary and Henry arrange the songs.

"I'm a Celt," Henry said. "That's where I come from, and this was deeply resonant, incredibly soulful music to me. Our culture has drawn a very narrow concept around what is holiday music and what that might encompass. The fact that this music was particular to the season. ... I found that fascinating."
Update December 21, 2014
NPR has an interview with Joe and Caitrîona O'Leary. 

woensdag 22 oktober 2014

Some Americana Fest recordings on line

  • 'Plainspeak' at City Winery, Nashville. 

Joe Henry "Plainspeak" from Matthew Sterling on Vimeo.

This taping is currently on line. It is divided in 3 segments.

Listen to episode #1032.

The 5,000-square-foot studio was founded in the early 1960s by Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins, music industry pioneers who created what became known as The Nashville Sound, a smoother version of country music that replaced honky-tonk's popularity in the 1960s. The space was designed to be large enough to accommodate a full-size orchestra to accompany artists' recordings.

RCA Studio A is the only remaining active studio of four RCA studio spaces designed by Bill Putnam, who is considered the "father of modern recording" for his invention of the modern recording console and his influence on the post-WWII commercial recording industry. 

In the past 50 years, countless artists of a variety of genres have recorded hits in RCA Studio A. The list includes Jim Brickman, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Lionel Richie, Bob Seger, Jewel, Lady Antebellum, Faith Hill, the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Carrie Underwood, Bonnie Tyler, Lee Ann Womack, Keith Urban, the Nashville Symphony, Ben Folds Five, and so on.


The future for Studio A is verry uncertain. 
It's being sold to convert the property into luxury condominiums. Demolition was also on the planningboard, but that no longer seems to be an action.

Artist Ben Folds is taking the lead to save this studio.

vrijdag 17 oktober 2014

Voices of a People's History

Voices of A people's History of the United States brings to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who built the movements that made the United States what it is today, ending slavery and Jim Crow, protesting war and the genocide of Native Americans, creating unions and the eight hour work day, advancing women's rights and gay liberation, and struggling to right wrongs of the day.

By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present—VOICES seeks to educate and inspire a new generation working for social justice.

This organisation was founded in 2007 by a group of activists, artists and educators, led by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove .

On November 13, 2014 they host "a special evening of music and readings to celebrate the tenth-anniversary edition of Voices of a People’s History of the United States and launch the third — and updated — edition of this acclaimed book by Howard Zinn (1922-2010) and Anthony Arnove."

Joe Henry is one of the invitees, (next to : Anthony Arnove, actors Kerry Washington, Marisa Tomei, Josh Brolin, Frances McDormand, Jesse Williams, Michael Ealy, Adepero Oduye, Christina Kirk, Alicia Witt, and Hong Chau, musician Tom Morello and other special guests)

Find more info at the events' webpage. 

Update : November 15 ,2014

 Not a lot of info to be found about Joe's Contribution to this event. There are some pictures by J. Victor Decolongon to be found on getty images.

Joe, Carl Restivo and Tom Morello performed also together

According to elizabeth aquino's blog Joe did a Bob Dylan cover.
The song was 'George Jackson'.
Together Carl Restivo, Joe Henry and Tom Morello performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”(source : democratic underground)

vrijdag 10 oktober 2014

Tom Jones speaks about 'The wexford Carols'

Last summer, Joe, together with long time collaborator Ryan Freeland, were in Ireland to record a Christmas album for Caitríona O'leary and her friends.  (Read more info over here) .

Sir Tom Jones (who appears on the album) speaks about it in an interview.

"....Then I was told that Joe Henry was producing,...  so I thought : well it's got to be interesting...."

At the end of the interview we get to see also the artwork of the album.
After hearing the featured song in this interview, and the story Mr Jones gives us, I'm getting more and more convinced it's going to be a 'must have' christmas album.

So it's pretty sure, this will be spinning around over here in a while.
Anyway, again thanks to Joe Henry I got to learn another great talent : Caitríona O'leary.


woensdag 8 oktober 2014

Re-broadcast Bremen concert.

As posted in July Joe's concert in Bremen, Germany, was going to be re-broadcasted.

This will happen this sunday, october 12th, 20:00h Standard European time on Radio Bremen.

To listen to it on sunday on line : choose on the website in the right top corner : "Livestream einschalten."

Enjoy your sunday evening. I will.

dinsdag 7 oktober 2014

Rebel without a Clause, The story of Curt Flood

On the album Fuse you find the song Curt Flood.

This song is based on Baseballplayer Curt Flood.

The NY Times has the story about Curt Flood on line.