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A blog for Joe Henry fans


zaterdag 17 december 2016

A moment to look back, look forward

End of the year, that’s always a moment to look back at it. Let’s start with some music that I addressed this year in my blog. You can use it as a soundtrack while reading my end-of-the-year musings below.





I’m not going to make a list of my favorite songs or albums. I can not do it better than Josh Hurst did, who is on the same wavelength as I am concerning that. 3 Albums produced by Joe are on his list : American Tunes by Allen Toussaint, Lovers and Leavers by Carll Hayes and, Real midnight by Birds of Chicago. That last one, was his number 1. I can only agree with him, it’s also my favorite album this year. ‘Real Midnight’ wins the Time-is-a-lion award for favorite record. The price is no statue to put on the piano, but a warm welcome in our house... Euhm,... Wait,...that’s not really an award, you are all welcome... OK,... on top of that you’ll get an artistic creation from our kids...Ehm , yeah I know, they'll do that anyway... Let's carry on...



Birds of Chicago’s album  is more than a great group of songs. This one came in at the right moment, and it’s the one we all need to listen to. It is life in all its facets. I wrote my thoughts on it (read here) just after the terrorist attack at the Brussels Airport, and I got comfort and strength out of listening to it. Even today, after everything that is happening around is, I grab back to it a lot.  Take for instance the titletrack : It displays a feeling we all know unfortunately. A lot of us have fear, we live in frightening and uncertain times.

Real midnight’s gonna come
real wolves at your door
But the power of it all, is not that it gives a voice to our fear, no it offers us also a way on how we can keep standing with all this, in our everyday lives. You see : We need to look out after each other, don’t be afraid of each other, care for one and other. Let us not hang our heads but let us turn the evolution to more love and care.

Lift me up, don’t cut me down,
In 10,000 years
they’ll see our love shine

I had the opportunity to speak to the wonderful and Lovely JT and Allison. You can read our conversation over here. It was a wonderful and warm evening, and during their concert I witnessed how they touched everyone in that audience.


Lovers and Leavers by Carll Hayes is an album that I also love a lot. An album that touched me enormously. I remember sitting in the car, in front of a red traffic light, with no immediate thoughts on my mind. The track ‘The love that we need’ started, and it grabbed my full attention. The entire atmosphere,  the lyrics, and how they were brought to me, got to me…. And there I was, seeing the traffic light jump to green, fighting my tears….
The first single released ‘for the sake of the song’ immediately caught my attention, and I would like to present to you one verse in remembrance of all the losses in music we had : Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, Mose Allison, Leon Russel, Toots Thielemans,…
And there's the mystic, there's the legend
There's the best that's ever been
And there's the voice of a generation
Who won't pass this way again
They did it all for the sake of the song.


Allen Toussaint died in 2015, just after finishing the recording session of, what became, his last album American Tunes, released this year. It simply became a sublime record. And it is so moving to hear Allen at the end.
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest
With all these wonderful records, where Joe stood in the controlroom, we haven’t even touched his own music. There was the single ‘Shook up the world’ in memory of Muhammed Ali, but a big part of this year went into the ‘Shine a light’ project. Yes I call it project, because the word 'album' doesn’t give you the total idea.

In a nutshell : Together with Billy Bragg, Joe took a train ride from Chicago to L.A. In each place the train stopped, Joe and Billy jumped out, recorded a song, and made sure they got back on the train in time. It where all songs, not about, but around the railroad. Songs, all part of  America’s musical heritage.
They put these songs in a wonderful album with great artwork, and above all that : they toured with them, and will be touring in 2017.
I went to see them perform in Portsmouth, UK. Donald Trump just got elected, Leonard Cohen just died... It was a concert full of emotion. But it had power… These songs have power. Like I started this entry with Birds of Chicago, this one is also much more than just good songs. This is a relevant wake up call ! Go see a show !!

Enough of looking back, let’s look forward.

  • The discovery of 2016 for me was Son of the Velvet Rat. It was announced that their new record (coming out on February 17, 2017) was going to be produced by Joe. I  visited their website, and was immediately intrigued by the vintage images on their opening page. But the best way to get to know them, is by listening. I discovered a wonderful palette of influences. Painted on the Canvas I heard Jacques Brel, Sparkelhorse, Dave Eugene Edwards, Early Tom Waits, Nick Cave…
So it's no surprise I’m really looking forward to this upcoming album.

  • Besides SotVR, also Rose Cousins and Luisa Sobral have their albums, produced by Joe, ready to be released worldwide in 2017. 

  • Early in the summer Lizz Wright mentioned in an interview that her new album is going to be produced by Joe, and did we just now  got teased with some of that ? 





  • And I guess we can expect some news on Guy Pearce’s album. Last summer he was in the studio recording with Joe and his team. 

  • In 2017 the shine a light tour continues in January with Ireland and England, and later in April Australia. But who knows, maybe it won’t be over then and further shows will be released. 
Anyway concerning that, the following tweet appeared last week.



I’ll surely keep you updated on that, and all other news. 
Happy Holidays,
Take care of one and another
Greetings,
Stefan

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