A blog for Joe Henry fans

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’.”