A blog for Joe Henry fans

zondag 3 december 2017

Life in song, or song in life.

In the days before the Thrum tour started with a 3-day residentie in Durham, several interviews with Joe emerged. Maybe even more than previously, I noticed each time the interest in how these songs saw the face of day, What do they mean? and where do they go?
 While with 'Invisible Hour' everyone wrote about it as a poetic approach towards marriage, with 'Thrum' people seem to be checking if these songs are what they think they are ?

As an intro we receive the story of how the song Hurricane, W Va. ended up on his debut album 'Talk of Heaven'.
We learn that it was a roadsign he, and his brothers, crossed travelling through West Virginia, and that he found it a good title.
“When I wrote that song, I was writing something that I was trying to imagine someone like Johnny Cash might record, just to see if I could,”

How do all these songs form an album ? was a question several journalists asked.
"...At a certain point I’m writing songs and throwing them onto a pile. At some moment I understand that there’s a number of them that are sharing vocabulary, emotional weather and intention. And when I recognize that there are three, four, five songs that are inter-related in a way—sometimes I can articulate how I think they are and sometimes it’s a more instinctive understanding. And then I kind of listen to what I think they need to thrive....(source)"
We know, f.e. that the song 'Believer' and 'The Glorious Dead' where written years prior to releasing 'Thrum', and even performed live on occasions. But 'keep us in song' was written during the first UK leg of the 'Shine a light' tour.

In the end, how we interpret all these songs, is up to us: the audience. But for The album 'Thrum' Joe wanted to clear the air, and state that he did not write them as political songs.

In an interview Jay N. Miller gave the following interpretation to Joe : "Basically, we’d suggest the songs are about fear and uncertainty, and somehow managing to pilot yourself through those hard times and doubts."

JH : "I’d say the songs are about all those things,............I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly what the songs meant in some cases, but I think fear and trembling is something we are seeing today, as people, and as a nation. The political moment is part of the moment we stand in, but I’ve never written songs to address a political moment. I don’t want that kind of authority. I’m more interested in looking at what does fear and trembling do to us as individuals? How do we abide and continue in times like these?"
"I always want to write about things that challenge us as human beings,” Henry continued. “How we all try to deal with the inevitable, stand in the moment, and abide it, or don’t.....................
Sometimes songs mean different things to different people, so if some people see commentary in these songs, that’s their right.”

I have written down my view on 'Thrum'. But if I had to say it in 1 sentence : I interpret the album as the climb, both we personally and as a society need to do.... Are doing!

Joe told Rob Beyers what the circumstances where, when and how he wrote 'Keep us in song'. I remember verry wel the overall feel in that period. 4 days after he wrote that song, I saw him perform in Portsmouth. It was a period full of worries for all of us. Knowing what I know today, I think those days marked the verry beginning of a Climb Joe, at first personally, had to face, and turn that in getting us all on board to climb.  I am actually relieved that he wasn't alone touring in the UK, but Billy Bragg was right there with him. Both of them turned those shows in perhaps the most important tour you could witness in the UK, maybe even Europe.Today, we are climbing.  We are on our way up !

Me personally I also had to climb, and f.e. music has helped me with that.

2 Years ago, when ISIS attacked Paris's conterchall Bataclan. Fear struck all the way to Brussels. Venue Ancienne Belgique, closed for several days. It is a venue, similar to Bataclan, so there was actual fear. Trixie Whitley opened the doors again. All those dreadful events made that concert, in Belgium, almost symbolic.  Before it actual started, we all sang along with Bob Marley's 'one love'. The emotions in that room, the statement we made there together where of the utmost strength !

BTW, it's the place Joe himself will perform in a few months.

A few months later, Brussels itself got attacked by ISIS at the airport, and on the subway. It was the period Birds of Chicago toured with 'Real Midnight'. Their song on how we have to look out for eachother, together. Their concert, and my converation with them was another step up the ladder.

Seeing Bill and Joe preached the importance of solidarity in Portsmouth helped us all, together !
Hearing Billy Bragg perform in Antwerp a few weeks ago helped us all, together ! 

And hearing the 'Thrum' songs helps us :

Together !

Well, this was supposed to be a round up of some interviews, but I got carried away again... Perhaps I should title this post something like : Life in Song, or song in Life. I don't know...


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