I suppose that's the obvious question.
The idea is at least in part a personal experiment and a challenge to myself. Perhaps I place too much stock in that old adage that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I find myself often unable (or too self-conscious) to adequately put into words why a particular artist album or artist speaks to me. Even that phrase – "speaks to me" – seems too vague and ill-defined to carry much meaning.
As I sit here today, I can honestly say that Joe Henry is my favorite artist. There are a handful of artists that excite me and whose work I follow with almost religious zeal. But Joe Henry alone consistently hits all of the right buttons. Each of his albums, from Trampoline forward, are unique and interesting and, quite often, challenging. That they have been uniformly excellent is even more impressive considering that each one has arguably improved upon its predecessor. When you follow an artist for more than a decade, you naturally expect a gradual ascent toward a plateau, at which point you start to believe that the artist in question has fewer and fewer surprises up his sleeve. In the case of Joe Henry, however, I find my expectations continually confounded with each new record and find myself concluding that the latest record is his best so far.
So consider the question, "Why a Joe Henry blog?" the mission statement of this endeavor. And bear in mind that Joe Henry's work extends well beyond the confines of his records into his production efforts, which are unusually collaborative in nature and find him in the company of some very interesting artists in their own right. One of the hopes I have for sustaining interest – from myself and, hopefully, from you as well – is that Joe Henry is a generally busy guy, and he tends to have a number of projects on the front burner at any given time. At the moment, he has a new record Blood From Stars due on August 18, and I only just had the chance to hear it this week. Obviously, there will be plenty to say about it in the coming weeks, but I can tell you that it is quite remarkable and certainly extends his streak of incredible work.
Furthermore, I'd like to invite you to submit comments and possibly even blog posts with your own thoughts on Joe Henry. Though I'll fill much of this space with links and news, the true goal of this space is to continually revisit Henry's body of work. So if you have an idea or something else you'd like to contribute, please don't hesitate to contact me.
And lastly, I'd like to thank Josh Hurst, longtime blogger and correspondent, for really providing the necessary inspiration for this idea (please see his featured essays in the left sidebar). I don't recall whether Joe Henry was the reason we first began corresponding, but he is often my source for current JH news. I imagine you'll see plenty of links to Josh's excellent site The Hurst Review in the coming weeks, and he's at least hinted that I might even get a blog post or two out of him.
So perhaps you're just discovering Joe Henry or perhaps you are only now realizing that you're not alone in your admiration for the man's work. In any case, welcome and thanks for stopping by.
God is in the details,
Of the smoke in the air.
The Devil he's a pauper prince
Nesting in your hair.
(from the 2007 album Civilians)
(NOTE: Banner photo is by Lauren Dukoff — see right sidebar for a link to her website.)
UPDATE: One final note – this blog in no way is meant to replace the original Houston Ramblings blog. In fact, I anticipate cross-posting links and news items about Joe Henry at both sites. This blog will hopefully have a good deal more depth, but if you're one of my regular readers and don't perhaps need quite so much Joe Henry content, the Houston Ramblings will soldier on in its current state.