Jay Bellerose

Joe & Jay on High Fidelity Podcast

Well, it’s Christmas Eve.  So might I suggest grabbing a cup o’ nog or grog, putting your feet up by the fire and curling up with the latest Live from High Fidelity podcast, featuring Joe Henry and Jay Bellerose (taped in Jay’s man-cave, no less).

Along with host Tom DeSavia and Eric Gorfain, they discuss and spin some of their favorite records and a few yarns along the way.  Clocking in a nearly 3 hours, Episode 25 (Parts 1 & 2) can be downloaded from iTunes here or Hipcast here.

Please have a wonderful holiday and a very safe New Year.  Hope to see you back in 2015.

Early winter Joe Henry update

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.

  • In that spirit, be sure to check out Stefan’s interview with JH regarding his passion for vintage guitars.
  • 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!
  • The first exciting JH production news for 2015 is that Bettye LaVette will release her new album, Worthy, on Jan. 27.  It features that talents of Jay Bellerose, Doyle Bramhall II, Patrick Warren and Chris Bruce and will available as a deluxe edition with a live performance DVD (pre-order regular edition here, and deluxe edition here).
  • 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).
  • As a reminder, JH will also have a string of live performances in January.
  • 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).

Joe Henry at Largo at The Coronet (June 21, 2014)

IMG_4614This was my third Joe Henry show at Largo in Los Angeles, and if you’ve ever attended one of these shows, you know they are something special – a hometown show in front of a rapt audience, including many friends and family.  Saturday evening’s performances – an early acoustic solo set followed by a full band show – were no exception while also being quite exceptional.  The chance to see two unique performances in one evening is rare enough; to see JH perform with some of his most trusted allies – Patrick Warren on piano, Levon Henry on sax and clarinet, Jennifer Condos on electric bass, Jay Bellerose on drums and percussive racket and Greg Leisz on acoustic guitar and lap slide guitar – is nothing short of amazing (not to mention increasingly rare due to the demand on these players’ schedules).

Naturally both sets featured many songs from the new release, Invisible Hour.  JH was bristling with energy, humor and confidence during both sets, an impressive feat considering he’d played the night before in San Francisco.  Largo audiences are simply the best listeners I’ve ever encountered at any venue in the United States, and I can’t really tell you anything about this show that isn’t obvious by my description so far.  It was announced that Joe would sign CD’s after the show, and true to form, he sprung into the courtyard mere minutes after walking offstage to greet a sizable number of friends and fans.  I said a very brief hello and goodnight, and I imagine that he was there until the early morning hours, friendly and courteous as always.

I’ve tried to recall the general setlist from my bleary-eyed memory (please send me corrections and omissions if you have any).  I’ve denoted the songs as follows – *both sets, +acoustic set, ^band set:

  • Odetta*
  • Eyes Out For You*
  • Believer (new song described as a cross between “Amazing Grace” and “Let’s Get It On”)+
  • Sparrow*
  • Invisible Hour*
  • Grave Angels*
  • Swayed*
  • Monkey (piano)*
  • Our Song (piano)+
  • Lead Me On+
  • After The War+
  • God Only Knows (piano)+
  • Plainspeak*
  • Progress of Love^
  • Stop^
  • All Blues Hail Mary (really awesome – probably my fave of the night)^
  • You Can’t Fail Me Now^
  • Every Sorrow^
  • Unspeakable^
Encore – acoustic set:
  • Trampoline (with 14 yr old Charlie Hickey – really beautiful)+
  • Kindness of the World+
Encore – band set:
  • Plainspeak*
  • Slide^

And, of course, JH and Levon are back on the road this week, starting with The Birchmere in D.C. this Tuesday.  Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion will be joining him, and they are well worth catching as well.

UPDATE:  Fantastic review from The Hollywood Reporter.  Full setlist included in the article.

Wild Edges: A Recap

(Apologies for the relative lateness of this post, but as you know – since you are reading this post at the new site – I’ve been a little busy with the move of the blog.  Thanks for your patience and thanks for checking out the new blog location. – DK)

Wild_EdgesJosh Hurst – a friend and occasional contributor to this blog – joked this past weekend about how he personally “willed into existence” last year’s collaboration between Elvis Costello and The Roots, two acts for whom he is very passionate.  One could make a similar observation that Wild Edges – a commissioned performance of original songs from Joe Henry, Over The Rhine and The Milk Carton Kids – might have likewise been the result of subconscious prayer and wishful thinking from Josh, myself or any number of fans of these intertwined talents.

Setting aside the complete uniqueness of the event (over two nights at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center), one could conceivably worry that the endeavor would look better on paper than it would sound in execution.  It is, after all, a tall order for artists to compose and perform original music, never heard in public in any format, and connect it to the ears of an expectant audience.  If anticipation was already high, the stunning and intimate setting of the Hayti certainly raised the stakes.

All that said, however, it will surprise few readers of this blog that I and – judging from their exuberant reaction – nearly everyone in attendance walked away from the two nights with all expectations met and exceeded, not to mention souls and spirits nourished and renewed.  The premise was to connect selections from the Great American Songbook – which in this context was represented by inspirations such as “Delia’s Gone”, “The Needle and The Damage Done”, “Spring Can Hang You Up The Most” and many others – to the new songs.  Those connections were occasionally explicit but mostly provided springboards for the compositions, which, according to Henry, would have to “fight it out in the streets,” just like any other songs.

And fight they did; though in these capable hands, they mostly floated like butterflies while occasionally stinging like bees.  Almost every song had something unique to offer.  Henry’s “The Glorious Dead” certainly sounded like something lifted directly from his own songbook, but, as Linford Detweiler pointed out, sounded like “an unearthed hymn.”  “Dangerous Love” was a swinging tune on its own merits, but Levon Henry’s wicked saxophone solo that capped off the performance wrenched it off its foundations.  Both evenings opened with “Los Lunas,” which was as perfect a song as I’ve heard Karin Bergquist sing, underpinned by Kenneth Pattengale’s lilting pedal steel.  Joey Ryan had several standout performances, and his voice proved to be a key ingredient on many of the evening’s songs.  Ryan reliably provided dry comic relief in between more than a few of the songs.

The cast was superbly accompanied by Henry regulars Jennifer Condos (bass) and Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion and assorted noise), along with Levon on clarinet and saxophone.  The performances were packed with musical highlights but certainly his contributions were among the most indelible.  Likewise, Pattengale no doubt shocked the audience with his vast reserves of instrumental talent, which included impressive work on pedal steel, dobro, electric guitar, accordion and piano.  The number of participants ranged from two (when Pattengale accompanied Bergquist with his soulful piano on a tune only played during the second evening) to all participants, with all points in between as various cast members left the stage briefly.  Unsurprisingly, with this batch of talent, the arrangements never threatened to overshadow or suffocate the songs themselves.

The proceedings were recorded by engineer Ryan Freeland for possible future release, and after two nearly flawless presentations, one should anticipate that little will prevent that from happening.

Followers of these acts are most likely the type of music fans who hold dear the notion that music is more than mere entertainment and can occasionally achieve transcendence.  My guess is that all who bore witness to these miraculous two nights of music walked away with that assumption both intact and fortified.

Here are a couple of reviews from the local North Carolina press:

Wild Edges anticipation builds

Duke University's Independent Daily has a little more backstory on this week's Wild Edges performance at the Hayti Center in Durham, as well as some information on what may happen with the live recordings.

Also, check out Karin and Linford's photo feed for some behind-the-scenes pictures of this week's rehearsals.

Joe Henry’s new record ‘Invisible Hour’ to be released Spring 2014

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.

Autumn Joe Henry update

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Well, we've had several nights in the 50's here in Houston, which must mean the rest of you in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying between seasonal and frigid conditions.  As such, I apologize for the lack of posts recently and hope this will catch you up on a few recent JH happenings.

  • Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him, by David Henry and Joe Henry, has just been released by Algonquin Books.  The hardcover recently shipped and the e-book should be out any day now.  Brothers David and Joe will be doing a few signings around the country, if you can catch them.  This is at the top of my reading list – can't wait!
  • JH will be delivering a few more acoustic performances in December, following his rousing sucess at Largo this past July.  Dates are as follows:  Dec 3, Minneapolis; Dec 4, Chicago; Dec 5, Ann Arbor; Dec 7, Seattle.  Not to be missed if you are nearby.
  • UK duo Chas & Dave have just released their new record That's What Happens, produced by JH at Abbey Road Studios.  It is available at Amazon UK (still awaiting delivery of my copy).
  • Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil Warwas released yesterday by ATO Records.  This unique project celebrates a unique period in American and American music history.  JH contributes several productions by artists like Taj Mahal, Chris Hillman, John Doe and T-Bone Burnett.  He is also backed on a track of his own by The Milk Carton Kids (you can hear the whole record over at Garden & Gun).
  • Speaking of whom, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Milk Carton Kids at their sold out Houston show last night.  They'll be heading back to LA and hosting a revue at Largo next Tuesday, Nov 12.  Who knows who might turn up?  They'll also be back at Largo on Saturday, Nov 16.
  • Close JH friend Sam Phillips will also be at Largo this weekend for her only solo shows of the year (Nov 9 is sold out, Nov 10 is on sale).  She will be backed by JH cohorts Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Greg Leisz.
  • Over The Rhine will wind up their fall tour on the West Coast in the coming weeks.  They will continue to be backed by Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos and Eric Heywood, who contributed their talents to their double CD Meet Me At The Edge Of The World.  Dates here – I can't imagine who might turn up at The El Rey!
  • You might recall that New West Records auctioned a number of 7-inch singles to benefit Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap earlier in the year.  On Nov 12, they will release a compliation of the tracks, which feature a number of production contributions from JH as well as his excellent take of "Taken On The Chin."  The 2 CD set will feature tracks not previously available.
  • Glen Hansard will release an EP on Nov 25, featuring his epic cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Drive All Night".  The track features vocals from JH and Eddie Vedder, plus sax by Jake Clemons (nephew of Clarence Clemons).  The track was recorded at Garfield House and produced by JH.  You can hear the song over at Rolling Stone.

That's about all I know for now.  I know of at least one artist who has recently graced the basement of Garfiled House, and I would expect to hear about that project in the coming months.  And, of course, all indications are that we'll be hearing about a new JH album any day now.  Fingers crossed!