A blog for Joe Henry fans

woensdag 18 april 2018

Grace, Lizz Wright & Brussels

Yesterday morning, the newspaper reported of a Gay-couple who have been attacked in the center of Brussels on Monday night.... I hope I didn't scare you away now, but I wanted to start with the knowledge that I'm not naive in it all. We live in a world we all have things we don't understand. A group of people don't want to open up for things they don't understand, and within that group there are people who want to aggressively scare away, the things they don't understand. A few months ago, there was a wave of organized vandalism in the city. It wasn't the first and it won't be the last reporting of such things. No, I'm not naive in it...

But on Monday evening I was in that same Brussels to go and see Lizz Wright perform. I saw a different reality. It was real because I witnessed it, so it's also reality. One that doesn't make it to the newspapers.

It started when I stepped off the train and found my way towards the exit. A refugee addressed me, like he probably tries to address as many people as he can to try to make his family make it through today (to start with). As a farewell he said: “Thank you for looking at me."
With that 1 sentence he explained the most important thing when we don't understand each other. Don't turn away, open up, listen and look at each other.

I had some time before the concert started, so I strolled through the center in that beautiful evening with spring in the air. I witnessed a community full of different people. Ethnical, religious, interests, .... But everyone enjoyed the evening together, made fun together, listened to music and performed together. 2 cyclists bumped in to each other and people cared, helped and comforted. There was no fear at all in the air. Those of you who have been following me a bit know that a couple of years ago I wrote with a different tone when I was here. Also, the center of Brussels is a huge construction site currently. The 4-lane street, that cut the center in 2 is being adjusted to walking space, with water and green elements in it. Small narrow stairs to the subway station are opened and widened. Big ugly, old, empty buildings are taken down, and suddenly beautiful places are connected again. Light is coming in.

It was a wonderful appetizer for Lizz Wright's concert. She presented us a concert of older songs, and songs from her latest album Grace. She opened with 'Barley', followed by an amazing rendition of Neil Young's 'old man'. The evening went from one fantastic experience to the other. What an amazing voice she has. And!... What a talented band accompanied her. Chris Bruce on Guitar, Bobby Sparks on the Keys, Nicolas D'Amato on Bass and Brannen Temple on Drums.
The only thing I missed were those wonderful backing vocals on songs like 'Grace' and 'Seems I'm never tired of loving you'. Wouldn't it be amazing if suddenly a curtain opened behind her, and an entire Gospel Choir was there? The place would have exploded!  A well filled Ancienne Belgique embraced her and the band, and had the most wonderful evening. Several people tried to take that feel home with them on their smartphone, but we all know that is impossible. What we did all hoped for as being possible was that the concert lasted longer. But hey,... the time spent can't be taken away.

What more can I say, then the honest fact that I hope everyone can witness such an evening,


dinsdag 17 april 2018

All the things that I did & All the things that I didn't do

By extending their language to a band and reimagining the boundaries around what acoustic-centered two-part harmony can sound like, "All The Things That I Did and All The Things That I Didn't Do" carries listeners down a river and out into the open sea.(ANTI records)

'All the things that I did & All the things that I didn't do' is the title of the upcoming new release by the Milk Carton Kids. It will be released on June 29, 2018 on ANTI records. 
Today they launched their renewed website, with this info. You can pre-order the album on the site.

According to ANTI recordsit's not just the addition of the band here that creates something new. National politics left Ryan feeling disoriented and mournful. Pattengale’s relationship of seven years ended, and he found himself unexpectedly needing surgery for cancer. (He is cancer-free now, and accidentally broke his cigarette habit in the process.)
Though they didn't approach the new album conceptually, a theme of shattered realities began to emerge out of the songs that sparked to life. Recent events provided a bruising background for the record, yet the project is somehow bigger than any personal grief. Two-part harmonies ride acoustic guitars high above the haunting landscape created by the presence of the band, as if Americana went searching for a lost America.
If previous Milk Carton Kids productions recall plaintive missives from a faraway hometown, these songs sound more intimate, like a tragic midnight knock at your front door.
The album ricochets between familiar styles and experimental songs. "Just Look at Us Now" rejects easy sentiment, suggesting that hindsight only reveals how badly things have turned out. "It's a terrifying place to be," says Ryan, "when everything seemed to be going fine." The stunned "Mourning in America" holds up an atmospheric Polaroid from the Midwest—as Ryan explains it, "what it feels like to live in a country you thought you knew."

They already have 1 song for you to discover on their Spotify page.

Make sure to read at NPR's 'all things considered'  why they released this 10+minutes song, which is epic in length in comparison to their previous work.
The article also learns us, that the album will feature 12 songs. Other songs include :

one of their biggest departures, "Nothing Is Real," neither of The Milk Carton Kids plays guitar. Describing the recording session for it, Pattengale says, "That was one of the days we had maybe ten people in studio. The way that I connected to the song was by playing it on the piano. When we were in studio and having trouble figuring out the angle, I thought, 'Why don't we use the piano, and assign each person a part of what I'm playing?' That song used my piano part almost as if we were writing an arrangement."
Inside the theme of shattered realities that wires the album together, even elliptical songs somehow become direct. The lyrics for "Blindness," when set to music, acquired an unnerving undertone.
Western influences on "Younger Years" gallop over a snaking clarinet and under vocals looking for something to salvage from sorrow ("Love inside our hearts / is the only kind of savior we've been sent"). "You Break My Heart" features Pattengale's solo vocals. Harmony turns "I've Been Loving You" into visceral grief. "For much of my life I've avoided that kind of intimacy and immediacy in my own writing," says Pattengale, "but you have to leave your blood on the page. It's wonderful, but it can also be a terrifying thing."
"Big Time" brings the energy of their live performances into the studio. "The goal was actually to record this one with a string band," Ryan says. "So everybody was in the room together. Lyrically, this one deals in the most hopeful way with some of the themes of the record."
The atmosphere on much of the album is both lush and spare, like waking up at night to find yourself on an ice floe that has drifted far from shore. "A Sea of Roses" traces its narrator's burial wishes, while "Unwinnable War" went through a metamorphosis as it developed. "If these are the sides we're staking out, no one side or the other can win," says Ryan. "We lose sight of the damage the battle does."
The title track, "All the Things…" presents a ledger of the countless tiny moments in a relationship from the vantage point of its passage into memory. ("The story of how the end came to be. How you became you. How I became me.")
(ANTI press release)

 NPR has some words from Joe as well.

  Joe told me(NPR) in an email that he's "been witness to the pan of their shared camera from wide cultural observance to a tighter focus of introspection. Even when gesturing broadly to our national traumas ('Mourning In America,' one fine example). And as they have sharpened their focus, Kenneth and Joey have expanded their sound — opened the fences to invite in fresh characters who throw shade and new depths of color, placing smaller stories within broader frames — acknowledging greater range while amplifying the intimacy inherent to their essential duet.
Joe Henry went on to say that there is "nary a better example of this balance than 'One More For the Road.' We feel the storm gathering. But though this road is dark and perilous, it doesn't go on forever."

And to be complete : 1 more musician is mentioned, that you can't find on yesterday's post.

maandag 16 april 2018

The Milk Carton Kids & Band

A while ago I already posted some little insights on the fact, that a new album by The Milk Carton Kids, produced by Joe, featured also other people then Kenneth and Joey alone.

Over the last few weeks they teased us a bit with short clips on their social media. Today they gave us a small video from in the studio, presenting us everyone around.

We can see :
Paul Kowert from the punch brothers : Double Bass
Dennis Crouch : Double Bass
Russ Pahl : Pedal Steel Guitar, Mandolin and Electric Guitar
Brittany Haas : Fiddle and Mandolin
Pat Sansone from WILCO : Hammond Organ, Mellotron and Piano
Nat Smith : Cello, Octave Mandolin and Hammond Organ
Jay Bellerose : Drums
Levon Henry : Reeds

And off Course : Joe Henry with Ryan Freeland behind the Desk .
In my earlier post we also saw Lindsay Loubelly singing with them. On the musicstand in front of her, a song entitled 'Big Time'.

We are expecting 'The Milk Carton Kids + band'. That's for sure now.

maandag 9 april 2018

Bremen concert to be aired on April 14.

Joe's concert in Bremen last February was recorded for radio Bremen. (They also recorded his concert when he toured with Invisible Hour a few years back)

You can listen to it on saturday, April 14th at 22:00h (European time).

You have on the webpage a button 'Jetzt anhören' . That is the livestream of the radiostation. So click that next staurday at 22h.

vrijdag 6 april 2018

The Amy Helm album is on the Horizon.

So far, we had little insights on the upcoming Amy Helm Album that Joe produced.

Poughkeepsie journal gives us the following info.

Helm’s second annual Woodshed Residency Tour comes as she is gearing up to release a new record produced by musician Joe Henry. The album is scheduled for release in 2018. 
Helm and Henry during their own performances dig deep. They share with their audiences a nuanced framework of artistic expression that roars with passion.

Underscoring it all is musical momentum that relies on sharp attention to detail. A project that features Henry and Helm should offer many dimensions. And you can get a sense of it all beginning this weekend.

Update :Timesunion tells us, it will be released in September.

On her new album, slated for a September release, Helm placed control in the hands of Joe Henry, a producer noted for his work with Billy Bragg, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Aaron Neville and Allen Toussaint.
"I wanted this to really be a Joe Henry record, so I was very happy to hand it over" Helm said. "He has his own environment he creates sonically. I was drawn to how specifically connected he is with the singer; he has a way of letting a voice ring.
"We did the album in a very different way," she said, noting that its 13 songs were recorded live with no overdubs over the course of four days. "None of this was familiar; it wasn't the Barn, it wasn't Woodstock. It was a completely new thing at a studio in L.A. It challenged me to dig in."

vrijdag 30 maart 2018

'God only knows' in the eyes of P. Otten

On this Easter weekend, I'm sharing someone else's thoughts on Joe's song : 'God only knows'

I came across this text this week, and I wanted to give the opportunity to the non-german speakers, a chance to read it. So I made this translation.
You can read the original version on theosalon.blogspot.

This is a song that lures you to look at life with mercy. Because Mercy says: The world is better with you than without you. About "God Only Knows" by Joe Henry.

- By Peter Otten

A friend brought this song to my attention, and after several listens, I thought: it fits wonderfully in these times. In how long it is no longer black against white, lie against truth, fake against news, me against you, yes against no, all these things that are defined against us. We are somehow in a time of sharp contours. No place for the in between. No room for pastel. No resonance space for intermediate tones. "We'd almost lost the heart to know" sings Joe Henry. " How to keep our best in mind."

'The best of me'. At first, I had to think about what that is for me: ‘the best of me’ - It's nice that someone is singing it. I nearly would have forgotten about it. But what is the best of me? I could list all kinds of talents now or things like that. However. Joe Henry seems to be on a different level. The best of you is the ability to look with Mercy to the world.

Mercy is a strange, antique word that we do not use in everyday life so often. I know it from movies about knights: where a warrior swings his sword over someone vanquished and decides in the next second whether victory plays out his power and takes the life of the vanquished, begging for mercy. In movies, It always implies power changes. A warrior lets his power go. And by letting go of his power, the other is left in dependency. He owes the other man that he is well. That he lives on.
But it actually means something else. Mercy is that extra that someone gives without him having to. Without hidden motives. Out of an inner exuberance, a positive mood, feeling of affection. A love for life, creation, or an other person. Mercy comes from an attitude of love for life, love of life, affection for other creatures. Mercy means: The world is better with you than without you. And I want you to be well, that you live well, that you have all the life you need. I want you to have your luck. No matter who you are. In French there is a term gratuité. It’s not so easy to translate, but it describes much better than the German term gnade, what it is about. Gratuité means that extra that someone gives that’s not at all necessary, that extra that no one releases, gives, puts in the bag - not to buy another one, or to prove his power to him. Gratuité is the more without hidden motive. It is the unnecessary more that no one can simply expect, but that has only one purpose, namely, that you fare well. Your well-being makes the world a better place.

But the world is not like that, Joe Henry knows that. It has an angry face. People are acting unforgiving. The use of will and power does not automatically give you the right, neither yours or our freedom. Automatically nothing works here.

But what should be done? Joe Henry grabs an image. He describes a loving couple who may be embracing down the street. Both lovers create a retreat, "a full retreatment", a retreat, a kind of space capsule. In a sense, the two of them create a secluded, mild perspective on each other - and with that : on the world as well. “The worst of life looks beautiful as it slips away in full retreat " The world is beautiful when viewed from a hideaway. Out of a kind of space rasp, which creates the view for what is actually necessary : that people can be happy.

So this song asks for your refuge, your retreatment, your space capsule.

Perhaps it is the space capsule of the togetherness that attracts people to the exuberance that mercy also contains. Being together, being safe in one another, love - maybe this retreatment - whatever it is – it seduces people to do more.

Sometimes this ‘more’ is no more than just letting go of your own personal interests. Not to overlook one's own weaknesses or weaknesses of others, but not to make one's own attitude the sole standard. Sometimes it's just that: let the joy of life just take you, no matter where.
This is a song that entices you not to forget the best of you: to be gracious to the world, to look at life, yourself and me and others. All this with an attitude of gratuité, that uncalculated More. With generosity. With an open view. Friendly. Honored. Mildly. Not immediately surmise and see restrictions where there are none. This is not a song for the discerning, but a song that sings of generosity. Because even the God over whom Joe Henry sings, can only be imagined generously, not as a whiner. “God only knows that we mean well, God knows that we just don't know how.” Even when it doesn’t always work.

Now isn’t that a comforting Easter image.  Sing if you can : “But I'll try to be your light in love, and pray that it’s enough for now”.

That’s enough. That’s Gratuité,  that’s the best of you.

zaterdag 17 maart 2018

Mountain stage performance online

Last December Joe performed on NPR's Mountain stage radio session.

Backed up by Levon Henry, Patrick Warren, Jay Bellerose, David Piltch he performed the following songs :
Climb / Believer / River Floor / Keep us in song / Trampoline.

It is available now online  : NPR's Mountain Stage Podcasts .
Or in the Mountain Stage Archives.

I loved it !. It's a great recording of Joe and band performing these songs.