UPDATE: According to JH’s management, there are no plans for a vinyl release at this time. The previous Amazon listing for vinyl was in error. However, both the CD and the iTunes edition will include a download of acoustic demos of most of the songs on the album.
Invisible Hour is due for release in about a month from now. As any fan knows, Joe Henry always puts a great deal of care into the packaging of his music. Perhaps you can get some sense of the visual component of Invisible Hour with some new publicity shots for the record.
I’ve started a new Gallery page to file away new and recent shots.
You can read a bit about the record and hear a premiere of the new track “Lead Me On” at the Los Angeles Times (or see bottom of this post).
UPDATE: And, of course, no album release would be complete without a few introductory words from JH himself:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
My new album that stands trembling upon your threshold, Invisible Hour, is my 13th as a solo artist. It represents plenty to me beyond sheer endurance; and though I feel myself continuing to evolve daily (as we all must), I nonetheless believe, if allowed, that this stands as a defining moment for me personally and as artist.
Mind you: I have always delivered what I believed to be my best work at any given juncture; but I sometimes recognize in retrospect inadvertent fault lines at the borders between the songs themselves and their articulation; between production concepts and the songs they mean only to serve. With this album, though —at least in this honeymoon period— I feel instead that the work all of us did in conjuring the music those four days late last summer has disappeared into the songs themselves, leaving behind no paint cans nor scaffolding; no baggage the songs were not themselves already carrying upon arrival. I mean that I hear in this final rendering, alas, no finality at all, but, rather, possibility —for liberation, for acceptance, for real-time revelation— as if the songs herein are inviting me into adventure as opposed to my simply securing them within a frame.
The songs lean into and out of folk tradition as pieces of writing, perhaps, and evidence my earliest loyalties; yet while that offered all of us a tonal bedrock, and suggested the steely rumble of acoustic instrumentation to be an appropriate point of demarcation, it also enforced mystery as a historic fact; and as such, every musician on the date sang and played less to earthly parameters and more to ghostly communion with discovery, with love in all its forms.
You will read in the album’s accompanying liner notes my suggestion that these are all, perhaps, “songs about marriage;” but I should hasten to add that that is a personal observance, and recognized much after the fact. That thread —of commitment, surrender, and hair-raising mystical alignment— does indeed snake through the whole in ways both overt and peripheral, literal and metaphoric. But though marriage as a notion moves like significant weather through its rooms, it is really the redemptive power of love in the face of fear upon which this house is built. Love is the story; and the characters paw lustfully after it –formal pairings notwithstanding.
These songs and this music sound alive to me just now, I really want to say: romantic, mortal, and singularly of a piece: ranging, though all cut from a single bolt of coarse cloth.
I am very proud of the work, and am thus, for the first time, releasing it myself (in partnership with my management on our own Work Song label), in recognition of the changing landscape and in the spirit of true ownership in every sense of that word.
Simply stated, it is my intention to be as bold and creative in taking the music out into the world as I tried to be in writing and recording it. Perhaps I am just at the point in my life, as a person and as an artist, where I understand that erecting a fence between the two was somebody else’s idea. And it has worn out its welcome.
Just a few activities of note to keep you JH fans excited:
- Based on Joe’s Facebook postings last week, it would appear that the Johnny Cash Bitter Tears project has commenced recording. According to JH, visitors to Garfield House included Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Rhiannon Giddens (from Carolina Chocolate Drops).
- The live session from KEXP in December has made the rounds on NPR’s website, and “Swayed” (one of the new songs from the upcoming Invisible Hour) is available for download as a video podcast.
- JH joined a host of wonderful aritsts at The Troubadour in LA for a tribute to the late Phil Everly.
- UPDATE: I also meant to note that the folks at American Songwriter were kind enough to post a recent article from their January issue, which features The Milk Carton Kids discussing one of their mentors (guess who).
That’s about all I know for now, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty about Invisible Hour in the coming months.
Billboard has an interview and some details about JH's new record, Invisible Hour. Significantly, the album will not be released by Anti- but through some alternative distribution model, hopefully around April of 2014.
The article also mentions the upcoming project related to Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears.
Joe Henry will be performing a very special solo show at LA's Largo on Friday, July 19. Tickets are on sale now at Largo's website.
As welcome as that news is, the description of the show contains additional news that will no doubt spark a lot of excitement around here in the near future…
Attention all barracks: this in not a drill…
Songwriter and singer Joe Henry will give a rare solo concert on Friday, July 19th.
This event will mark the first time in 25 years that Mr. Henry shall perform alone by his own volition. Motivated neither by necessity nor threat of violence, it will be an appearance born purely of his own stubborn desire.
The evening’s repertoire will feature songs from throughout his checkered and confusing career, as well as a number of new songs in advance of upcoming album sessions.
Note: Requests always appreciated, though may be batted away like summer flies. The man thinks he knows what he’s doing.
I had the immense good fortune Friday night of catching Tift Merritt at The Mucky Duck in Houston, where she played two full sets. Merritt resides pretty high on my list of singer-songwriters alongside folks like Joe Henry (there's a stunning live bootleg floating around out there of Tift singing Dylan's "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" with JH accompanying her on acoustic guitar, part of a NYC I'm Not There celebration).
Anyway, the shows were phenomenal, and I sat about two feet from pedal steel and guitar player Eric Heywood, who has toured and recorded with Merritt for a couple of years now. He is on a very short list of in-demand steel players who has played on many fantastic records. Since most of the music I love today sprung from that mid-1990's No Depression explosion, I must owe Heywood a cosmic debt because he played on some of my favorite records of that period (Richard Buckner's Since being chief among them). He more recently lavished some gorgeous pedal steel upon John Doe & The Sadies' Country Club, which has become an enduring favorite of mine over the past few years.
After the show, Eric was kind enough to chat with me for a while, and I mentioned the blog. He is fairly deeply connected with the same circle of musicians as JH, most recently due to his recording and touring with Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs, which also includes Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Greg Leisz (though Leisz did not tour with them, to my recollection). But even I didn't realize he toured with JH during the Short Man's Room/Kindness Of The World period and recorded with him on Fireman's Wedding and Trampoline. Most recently, Heywood added pedal steel to Lisa Hannigan's Passenger, appearing on the track "Safe Travels".
I just wanted to give some recognition to yet another talented musician who can be counted among Joe Henry's trusted confederates. Check out this 2008 interview with Heywood from No Depression, and marvel at the sheer number of great recordings he has contributed to over the years, here and here.
And be sure to catch Tift Merritt if she heads your way so you can check out her wonderful band for yourself.
UPDATE 2/18/13: And just in case you've seen Tift Merritt with Mr. Heywood recently, and you were wondering what that beautiful Tele he plays is ("Why, yes, DK – I was wondering that."), check out the website for Creston Guitars where his guitar has its own page. I was in Burlington, VT, last year for Grace Potter's Grand Point North music festival, and several of the local acts were outfitted with Creston guitars. Turns out Creston has followers well beyond the borders of Vermont! Please excuse the guitar geekery.
UPDATE: Here's a really nice video of Ms. Merritt and Mr. Heywood performing "Small Talk Relations" together on a recent episode of Last Call with Carson Daly (taped at The Troubadour in LA):