A blog for Joe Henry fans

maandag 16 januari 2017

A 'Jay Bellerose' anecdote

Sometimes you find stories in unexpected places.

On a blog about cycling, (Hey we Belgians, love our cycling) I came across a story about Jay Bellerose.

Brian Palmer, a cycling fan, tells the following story. 

...there are few of us in the percussive milieu who would have taken such a pragmatic and philosophical view of a similar situation...

I was recently listening to an interview with one of my favourite drummers, a chap by the name of jay bellerose, who i'm sure i have mentioned before. for those unacquainted with his palmares, he has drummed on albums by hugh laurie, robert plant and alison krauss, the late allen toussaint and joe henry to name but a few. however, he was relating a story from his early years at berklee college during which, on returning to his locker, he discovered that someone had nicked his nice, shiny five-piece tama drumset.

while somewhat distraught at this state of affairs, he figured that he simply needed drums and cymbals of any hue and cry to continue making music, a situation suitably remedied by a friend of his lending him a rather beat-up old set that he had no further need of. unlike many a contemporary drummer, bellerose has no cymbal or drum endorsement, preferring to play upon a range of vintage drumsets including an all-wood slingerland rolling bomber set from the war years when metal was rationed and even the tension nut boxes were fashioned from rosewood.

there are few of us in the percussive milieu who would have taken such a pragmatic and philosophical view of a similar situation. i have two very nice american drumsets with attendant quality cymbals and i'm enough of a snob to have offered to lend a set of those cymbals to the high school students sitting their drumming higher grade prelim, because to me, those on the school kit have much in common with dustbin lids.

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

woensdag 7 december 2016

Congratulations Ryan and Kim !

The Grammy nominees for 2017 are announced.

In the category 'Best Engineered album, Non Classical', 1 of the nominations was for Dig in Deep, by Bonnie Raitt.
Engineer : Ryan Freeland
Mastering : Kim Rosen

This fact alone is already an acknowledgement for them, so : congratulaions !

Joe Henry produced 1 track on this album, and he played guitar on that song (You've changed my mind).

Those of you following Joe's career know that Ryan is Joe's right hand in the studio, but I don't know if everyone is aware that also Kim Rosen is a returning name, when it comes to Joe's studiowork.
She  mastered almost every album Joe produced for a while now. (Chely Wright, Shine a light, Birds of Chicago, ...)

woensdag 30 november 2016

Dorado (SotVR) out february 17

Son of The Velvet Rat's album Dorado  will be released on February 17.

  1. Carry On
  2. Copper Hill
  3. Blood Red Shoes
  4. Love’s the Devil’s Foe
  5. Shadow Song
  6. Surfer Joe
  7. Starlite Motel
  8. Sweet Angela
  9. Tiger Honey
  10. Franklin Avenue

woensdag 23 november 2016

Here it is : First 'Son of the Velvet Rat' Single

A couple of weeks ago, we received more info on the Album by Son of the Velvet Rat, that Joe Produced.  (Entitled Dorado, and will be released Early next year)

Here is a first single : "Blood Red Shoes".(With Victoria Williams)

dinsdag 22 november 2016

Shine a light in the UK, it was welcome !

The shine a light tour has passed through the UK like a warm breeze in these cold times.

Me and my wife had the pleasure of seeing the show in Portsmouth. You can read my musings on that show at the entry : Portsmouth, Why we build that wall ?

Tom Langford

I followed their journey a bit on social media, and I found a lot of praise and love for both Billy and Joe. Off course, Billy is already a big star in England, but Joe has won over many hearts. I didn't count the amount of tweets,  (or people I heard in Portsmouth) in the likes of : "I never heard of Joe Henry, But he's great !" 

It was a bit of a sad 2 weeks for musiclovers. Some great people passed away: Leonard Cohen, Leon Russel, Sharon Jones, Allison Mose...
This period reminded me of a quote T Bone Burnett made, when he adressed the press on the re-launch of the Fair Play, Fair Pay act. He spoke about the loss of Prince, Merle Haggard, Glen Frey, and David Bowie. and then he said :
...And this will be happening at a faster rate, as the Golden age of Music comes to an end....

Joe has written some lovely tributes for these losses on his FB page. With Mose Allison he had a closer relationship. He produced Mose Allison his last official album The way of the World .
In the sad news of his passing, Various media had also some acknowledgement for Joe.
 Allison’s final studio album, “The Way of the World,” was released on the British independent label Anti- in 2010. Produced by Joe Henry, who had coaxed him out of semiretirement, it finds him in an autumnal but still trenchant frame of mind, despite plaints to the contrary on the opening tune, “My Brain.” The title track, set at a saunter, has the bittersweet resignation of an old man taking stock of what he’s seen. (Nate Chinen, New York Times)

In an Interview with Mose Allison in 2010, Allison spoke about  Joe :

  • MA: ...I met guitarist-producer Joe Henry in Dusseldorf, Germany. He said at the time that he wanted to record me. I hadn't recorded in about 12 years and I didn’t figure on making any more records.
  • JazzWax: What changed your mind?
  • MA: Joe kept at me and mailed my wife and so forth. I kept putting him off. Finally, I said to myself, Joe has a great reputation as a producer and he’s also a great musician. I eventually came to the conclusion, "Why not?" We recorded at his studio, and I like how it came out. [Pause] Never underestimate the power of relentless persuasion [laughs]. 

Back on the road...
...Travelling around, They visited Stocken Prison and donated some guitars for the Jail Guitar Doors program.

...It all starts with Wayne Kramer, guitarist for the legendary punk pioneers the MC5 and onetime prison inmate. His time behind bars inspired The Clash to write  “Jail Guitar Doors,” which in turn inspired British rocker/activist Billy Bragg to start the charitable organization named after the song, which brings musical instruments into prisons for use in rehabilitation...

While Joe was in Europe, It became clear Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. This, off course, was something that had to be adressed during the concerts. I noticed a lot of tweets passing, of a quote that Joe made during the concerts. That means people embrace that thought. And it is an important one. Not alone for the US, but all around the world. Because it seperates the person who has to endure it from the evolutions we are going through : "This is not who we are, it is where we are"

To end this post

Joe and Billy did an Acoustic Guitar Session. Enjoy it over here.