First, apologies for the light blogging. I suppose it’s time to crawl out of the woodwork and pass along some of the recent happenings in JH’s universe.
Many thanks and kudos to Stefan for keeping the flame burning in my absence and holding down the European front. He’s been tireless in his efforts, and much of what you’ll read here I heard about from his blog.
Stefan also first tipped me to JH’s production work on a marvelous new Christmas record by Irish artist Caitriona O’Leary called The Wexford Carols. For this fascinating collection of nearly forgotten Christmas folk ballads, she is joined by Rhiannon Giddens, Tom Jones and Rosanne Cash. What a beautiful and surprising holiday collection. It is available only as an import stateside, but it available in the U.S. iTunes store.
Speaking of beautiful Christmas music, Over The Rhine have released their new collection Blood Oranges in the Snow. Though JH lends no production to this one, frequent collaborators Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Eric Heywood hold down much of the musical support for the album. And nobody does Christmas music quite like OtR!
Big, big live performance news for 2015: JH and Sam Phillips will join forces for two nights (Feb. 21 & 22) at Largo in West Hollywood. They will share the stage – and a band – for the two evenings. I’m pretty sure names like Bellerose and Condos will be involved (tickets for Feb. 21, Feb. 22).
Nell Robinson recently released an interesting CD that was produced by JH at Garfield House. Rose of No-Man’s Land is Robinson’s tribute to her family’s long tradition of military service, woven together from letters and reflections by her Alabama family. Ramblin’ Jack, Kris Kristofferson and John Doe all make guest appearances.
One final related note… Jay Bellerose continues to be a go-to player for most of T Bone Burnett’s projects. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that his percussive stamp is all over The New Basement Tapes’ Lost on the River. Jay can also be found (shyly) in front of the camera for the accompanying Showtime documentary about the project (previous notes on this project here).
While attending last month’s Americana Fest in Nashville, JH stopped by Acoustic Cafe’s studios to tape a segment. His performance and interview can be heard on Episode #1032 (the episode is broken into segments on the website, with performance kicking in around 5:00 min on Segment Two).
Also while in Nashville, JH recorded a video performance at RCA’s historic Studio A, which has been threatened by development and become something of a rallying point for artists. JH gives us his very unique, open-tuning take on Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Stunning.
Joe Henry will appear at a very unique event in Cincinnati in January called American Originals. From Jan. 23-25, JH will perform alongside artists like Rosanne Cash, Over The Rhine and Aoife O’Donovan with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra in tribute to Stephen Foster (more info here).
Leading up to that, JH will hit a few midwestern cities:
In its most recent newsletter, Fretboard Journalrevealed that Joe Henry will interview multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz in the upcoming issue, which is due for shipment in the coming weeks. You can subscribe or purchase issues here (there is also a digital iTunes edition available).
Leisz’s playing graced Invisible Hour, and he has long been one of Joe Henry’s go-to players on both his records (see also Civilians) and his productions. Leisz toured last year with Eric Clapton, and he co-produced the new Lucinda Williams record, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (due Sep. 30) as well as contributed string work to every track on the album. He is arguably the most in-demand pedal and lap steel player on the planet.
Just a few odds and ends out of the Joe Henry universe (and nearby galaxies)…
First, JH and Levon should be wrapping up their brief Australian tour, which has been accompanied by some favorable press (a particularly nice article and interview in the Sydney Morning Herald).
JH will be returning stateside to appear very shortly thereafter at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville. Joe’s official showcase will be at City Winery on September 18, but I’m sure he’ll be seen around the festival elsewhere.
JH recently participated in a social media fundraising campaign for MusicCares. Various artists challenged three friends to post a picture of themselves with an album “that has made your life better” (along with a $5 donation to MusicCares). Stefan has the low-down over at his blog.
A few notes from some friends and associates…
Over The Rhine will be releasing yet another Christmas album. Blood Oranges in the Snow will be released on Nov. 4 and is described by Karin and Linford as “reality Christmas.” (I don’t believe that JH had any hand in its production, but well worth your attention nonetheless.)
The Milk Carton Kids will be touring this fall again with Sarah Jarosz, featuring “collaborative performances” between the artists. Full schedule here.
Some of you may know that I’m a shameless and die-hard Lucinda Williams fan. Her new record (the double-albumDown Where The Spirit Meets The Bone) will be released on her own label on September 30. At one time, JH was the rumored producer on this project. However, in his place, frequent JH accomplice and all-around string master Greg Leisz became the co-producer (along with Williams and manager Tom Overby) and also contributes his guitar wizardry to nearly every track. Bill Frisell, who collaborated with both JH and Leisz most notably on Civilians, lends his distinctive guitar work to two tracks (and is rumored to be featured on more tracks on yet another Lucinda record due sometime next year). Several tracks have made their way online through various outlets, but if you want to hear what magic Frisell and Leisz can conjure, feast your ears on the album’s closing track, a cover of JJ Cale’s “Magnolia” (nine-plus minutes long!). In my book, a Joe Henry album and Lucinda Williams album in the same year is pretty much all I could ask for.
And last but not least, this fall will see the release of two Bob Dylan projects. First, the long wished-for Complete Basement Tapes will be released on Nov. 4. A semi-related companion called Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapeswill be released on Nov. 11. That record will feature Dylan lyrics from the period written into songs and performed by a talented group comprised of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Jim James and Marcus Mumford. JH mentor T-Bone Burnett oversaw and produced the whole thing. No doubt, Joe Henry is smiling.
Fretboard Journal has an interview with Tony Klassen of New Era Guitars. Joe Henry’s name comes up several times, especially in reference to his new signature model, which is due to be finalized later this year. Apparently to be named The Bellwether, the signature model will be based on a 1930’s Washburn (produced and distributed by Tonk Brothers of Chicago during that period).
Remember that if you’re interested, Mr. Klassen has a 2-3 year waiting period. Plenty of information and pictures of his gorgeous guitars over at New Era’s website.
(JH pictured above with his 12-fret New Era Señorita)