Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

zondag 23 september 2018

Lizz Wright, Turnhout, Belgium 22 sept. 2018

How we are treated over here !

Within 6 months we get to see Lizz Wright perform over here in Belgium.

She visited us with almost the same band as last time in Brussels. (The only change was Martin Kolarides on guitar)
The Musicians played the intro, Lizz walked on stage and gave us a little thing to get used to.  What happened to that wonderful long hair of yours? But, like she told us, "If your grandmother says it's much better that way, who are we to disagree?". But let's get on with the important stuff.

The show opened, just like in Brussels with 'Barley', followed by her wonderful rendition of 'Old Man' (Neil Young). After that the concert followed a different path. While last April, the emphasis was on her new songs from Grace,  yesterday we received a broader setlist of her songbook. It implied f.e. that we got to hear her perform Joe's 'Stop (Don't tell me)'. It is necessary over here to credit Nicholas D'Amato for that fantastic improvisation on Bass he did in this song. And it is only fair that I continue with the entire band : Bobby Sparks on Piano and Hammond, Brannen Temple on Drums, and off course Martin Kolarides on Guitar. Great together, but they also, all had their solo moments in the show, and received a well deserved aplausse from the audience for it. It fitted wonderfully with Lizz's singing. Every now and then, she took the tambourine, to add some more rhythm. And does she have rhythm ! And does she have a beautiful tambourine. I'm serious here, I'm really jealous of that object. If I'm not mistaken, it displays a wonderful seashell ?

The concert gradually build up to its highlights 'Grace' and 'Seems I'm never tired of loving you'. Stunning performances, but  I'll be honest over here, I'm still hoping to hear these songs with a live gospel choir.
After the encore, the houselights went on, and when we were already making our way out, Lizz came back on stage. "I realised I didn't say goodnight to you all"  And with that, she sweetly ended the evening and wished us a good night, and a safe trip home.

Slowly, reports are coming in that she will be back in our regions, again after 6 months. Oh, how we are treated over here....
Don't forget that Gospel choir now.


If you remember from the last time at her concert I wrote a little bit on Smartphone use. We sat verry close to the stag this time, and the seat next to me was empty. As if the Devil himself was involved, as soon as the houselights went off, a more professional (seeing her equipment) came to sit next to me for half of the show, and shot pictures with a lens long enough to hit my head from where she was sitting. click-click-click next to my ear, followed by checking the display if the picture was useful.

zondag 9 september 2018

Writing in Ireland

As you know, Joe is spending some time in Ireland these days. He recently finished producing a record for Rhiannon Giddens, and upcoming there are 5 concerts.

Besides that, there is also a Masterclass by Joe, Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard, followed by the last concert in the region.

Helas, the last show at Burren College is already sold out.

But Joe's work doesn't stop with these things. On top of that, Joe is there to write !

In a radio interview, that is now available as the David Fanning Podcast, Joe explaines that he was invited by Burren College in Ballyvaughan to do a 1,5 month long writing residency.
Follow the link below and listen to Joe talking about it. But keep up, because that showhost can speak mighty fast! (It's also a 20 minutes talk about Joe's influences and work.)


Oh, speaking of writing : Joe announced that a poem of his would be published for the first time in the New Yorker. You can find that one by following https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/10/death-of-sound

But now,  how is that writing going on in Ireland?

zaterdag 8 september 2018

Shuffletown on Vinyl

Last week, Joe's 3th album Shuffletown was released on vinyl. Ever since its release in 1990, this is the first time this album is released on Vinyl.

'Why is this one pressed on Vinyl ?', is not the correct question to ask. The question is: 'does it deserve to have such a re-release after 28 ! years?' Joe ,Is it something you need to grab your breath for, for a second ?

... Where did time go ? Sandy Denny already asked that question in 1967.

Shuffletown, and certainly the making of it, is maybe the most important album for Joe Henry. Produced by T. Bone Burnett, it marked the beginning of a journey that, today, still is on-going.
I'm sure there always would have come a 'Shuffletown', but where would Joe be today, if T Bone,  musical genius and mountain was not behind the desk? If he did not step in to Joe's life?

Perhaps it was ment to be ? I mean if your full name is Joseph Henry Burnett, what are the odds your path crosses Joseph Lee Henry...

T Bone presented Joe an other way of recording music. The album was recorded in 3 days, with a band performing the music live. Today, Joe himself is known for using this way of producing. The result of it are all gems for the artists he worked and works for.  All those albums are simply amazing.
Today this is a comfortable way of working for Joe, who sometimes has to convince artists of this method, but at the time of Shuffletown it was a new and nervous-making approach¹ for Joe.

But this, to me, is actually a small practical outcome of it all. Joe himself said he learned that, when recording music  you're engaging something that's already in play and you're trying to abide it.¹
We are only the medium to get this art out there. It is about the songs in the first place. And these songs deserve an honest chance. And when it comes to this, what is more honest then trying to grasp that moment when the musicians play together, and how they play together ? Trying to reproduce take after take after take is not a good idea when it comes to that. That is why T Bone Burnett wanted 'Shuffletown' to be recorded on an analog 2 track, instead of a multitrack. That way he ensured that no one would be able to "fuck with it" later.¹ 

The album was released, but it left Joe without a record deal. On the positive side, Joe could start working as a production assistant for T Bone. Joe had found his mentor, and he evolved in the great producer, and musicmaker he is today.

Shuffletown is a beautiful album. Its cover presents you 2 images. A boy holding 2 pigeons next to a boy holding down another kid. White next to brown/orange... I'll let your mind shuffle with it.

But Shuffletown does really exist. It's a community that grew around 'Shuffletown Dragway'. It's actually a bit cynical that the dragway had to dissapear because people living in the community started complaining about the noise of the dragway (that originated the community).

But back to the music. Everyone familiar with T Bone and Joe's work will recognise the clear sound of all the musicians evolved in this record. I personally am most in love with the mandolin and accordion sounds nestling in my ear. But what else can you expect with such great musicians, backing Joe up. David Mansfield (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash), Cecil McBee(Wayn Shorter, Keith Jarrett), Phil Kelly, Michael Blair(Tom Waits), Charlie Giordano(Bruce Springsteen), Don Cherry(Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins)  and T Bone Burnett.

Today, it is really nice to hear these songs so fresh on vinyl. It's been a long time since Joe has played them live, but I know his audience sometimes request them. I f.e. remember someone asking 'John Hanging' during a concert. (We didn't get to hear it by the way). It doesn't matter, I'll let Joe choose for what he feels comfortable that evening, because that's the most honest towards the song.

So yes, I do believe this album deserves the re-release on vinyl. 


1 : A life in pursuit, Lloyd Sachs