Partners In Crime

Joe Henry Odds N Ends: Late Spring Edition

It’ll hit 90 degrees in Houston this week, so I figured time was running out to post any Late Spring JH news…

  • As previously mentioned, JH will appear at Over The Rhine’s Nowhere Else Festival over Memorial Day weekend.  You can get a clearer picture of what to expect at the festival’s website.
  • In addition to the new Allen Toussaint record (due June 10), there are several new production projects due in 2016:
    • Chely Wright’s new album I Am The Rain will be released in September.
    • Canadian singer-songwriter Rose Cousins has recorded a new record with JH and will be released later this year (you can pre-order the record from her website to receive it sometime prior the official release).
    • JH’s own website lists a new production from Austrian band Son of the Velvet Rat.
  • Stefan has a terrific new interview with Birds of Chicago, conducted while they were on tour in Europe.
  • JH will appear with Rosanne Cash on June 20 in Los Angeles at an event called Composed: The Intersection of Poetry and Song.  Reservations are closed but you can stand-by for admission on the day of the event.
  • JH will open for Rhiannon Giddens at her date this summer at Prospect Park Bandshell as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! series (announcement on May 10).
    (UPDATE:  Sorry, this was from 2015 – my mistake.  But if you are going to be in the NYC area in July, why not check this out?)
  • There is an amazing interview with engineer Ryan Freeland, conducted by Steve Dawson for his Music Makers and Soul Shakers Podcast.  Dawson has also interviewed Bill Frisell, Mary Gauthier and, most recently, Marc Ribot.  (Also available on iTunes)
  • And speaking of Ribot, as you may recall, he and JH performed as a duo at the recent Big Ears Festival in Knoxville (read Josh Hurst’s review of the show here).  You can watch much of the performance on YouTube in four parts (see below).

Big thanks to Stefan Vandenberghe for keeping us updated when I am sometimes slacking off!

Allen Toussaint’s final recordings ‘American Tunes’ to be released June 10

Toussaint_AmericanTunesIf there was a silver lining to the sudden passing of Allen Toussaint late last year, it was the news that he had just completed a record with producer Joe Henry.  Toussaint was deeply connected to Joe Henry for the last decade of his life, with the two collaborating on multiple projects including The River In Reverse with Elvis Costello and Toussaint’s own late-period masterpiece The Bright Mississippi.

Now comes word that Nonesuch will release their final collaboration, American Tunes, on June 10.  This long-gestating project includes Toussaint’s take on songs by many New Orleans and American song giants, such as Professor Longhair, Duke Ellington and Paul Simon.  The record is anchored by the rhythm section of Jay Bellerose and David Piltch, with Greg Leisz, Charles Lloyd, Rhiannon Giddens, Bill Frisell and Van Dyke Parks.  The album was recorded during two sessions: the first in New Orleans in 2013 and the second in Los Angeles in October, 2015.

You can read the full press release at Nonesuch’s website.  The 2-LP vinyl edition will include three bonus tracks.  Pre-orders (from iTunes or Nonesuch) include an instant download of “Big Chief.”

I guess it goes without saying that this will be a tremendous release for fans of Allen Toussaint, not to mention those of us who particularly revered his work with Joe Henry.

And a little preview of the record…

Hayes Carll’s ‘Lovers and Leavers’ out today

Hayes_2016_3Hayes Carll’s stunning new record Lovers and Leavers is out today.  He will embark on a brief Texas tour before heading off to the UK at the end of the month, then back Stateside for dates through the summer.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been anticipating this release since Carll first announced last year that he’d be recording it with Joe Henry at the production helm.  His stated purpose at that time was to create something a bit more introspective, downplaying perhaps some of the rambunctious humor of his earlier work (i.e. “She Left Me For Jesus”).

Lovers and Leavers is certainly quintessential Carll – quieter, more reflective, for sure, but not without his trademark insight and humor.  It is perhaps the most spare record Joe Henry has ever produced, placing the emphasis squarely on Carll’s voice and guitar, underpinned by the percolating rhythm section of Jay Bellerose and David Piltch, occasionally accented by the keys of Tyler Chester and pedal steel of Eric Heywood.  Interestingly, this is easily Carll’s most personal and often revealing album of songs, but each tune is credited with a co-writer, an approach that Carll has said brings added perspective to his own voice.  Check out the very personal “The Magic Kid” (written with Darrell Scott) for evidence that Carll has brilliantly found ways marry personal details with universal truths about innocence and fearlessness.

Hayes Carll could not have found a more sympathetic producer than Joe Henry for this record, which is no doubt a significant milestone in Carll’s career.  As a fan of both artists’ work long before this collaboration, I can wholeheartedly say that it has exceeded my hopes in every way.

Please check it out.  Here’s a quick review and press roundup:

And from those Folk Alley 30A Sessions, here is Carll with the incomparable Allison Moorer on “Love Don’t Let Me Down” (not performed as a duet on the album, btw)…

Joe Henry at the 2015 Fretboard Summit

As you may recall, JH participated in the first ever Fretboard Summit in November of 2015.  No doubt, many magical moments took place at this unique event, and you can get a glimpse of it now.  Here is a video of JH performing “Eyes Out For You” accompanied by the incomparable Bill Frisell on guitar.

Joe also conducted an amazing interview with David Crosby, and a podcast of that hourlong discussion can be found at FJ’s archive or on iTunes (Podcast #92).  The location for the 2nd Annual Fretboard Summit will be announced in late January.

In other Frisell news, he will release a new album on January 29.  When You Wish Upon A Star is his very unique spin on classic film music.

And after guesting on Lucinda Williams’ 2014 release Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, Frisell will appear on all but one track on her new record Ghosts of Highway 20, due on February 5.  Like its predecessor, it was co-produced by longtime JH cohort Greg Leisz, who also contributes guitar and pedal steel throughout.  Frisell will join Lucinda for her March 4 performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Joe Henry & Sam Phillips at Largo (Feb. 21, 2014, Los Angeles, CA)

[Below you can read my thoughts on the (historic?) pairing of Joe Henry and Sam Phillips at Largo at The Coronet last weekend.  You can also check out the recap from Randy Lewis of the LA Times (thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for the link).]

I suppose I’ve tried to make it somewhat of a personal tradition to attend a Joe Henry show when it happens to be at Largo in West Hollywood.  The Coronet Theatre is, in my opinion, the finest listening room in the world, and JH has a long association with Largo, dating back to its original club location on N. Fairfax.  These days, it is sometimes the only place where you can see him collaborate with the highly respected (and in-demand) musicians who have appeared on many of his records.

Sam Phillips shares this association – and many others – with Joe Henry, and their pairing last Saturday at Largo was even more natural in reality than it would seem on paper.  These two extraordinary artists share not only common tastes in musicians but simply appear to have been cut from the same cosmic cloth as songwriters and performers.  The audience might have been fairly evenly divided between the artists’ respective (and devoted) fan bases, but their purpose felt entirely united throughout the evening.

The evening featured two shows, both topping two hours.  The first was a sold-out marathon, and the second was a more intimate reprise attended largely by diehards from the first performance.  The sets were similar, though the first likely was stretched a bit longer by the first public performance of JH’s “Sign” from Invisible Hour, easily one of his best and most epic songs.

Highlights from both sets included:

  • Sam Phillips opening each show with Stephen Merritt’s “Underwear”
  • Daughter Simone’s angelic vocals filtered with ethereal echo for “Cameras In The Sky”
  • Sam and Simone’s rendition of JH’s “Stop”, accompanied only by Eric Gorfain’s looped violin parts
  • The transition to Joe’s portion of the show with an acoustic duet on “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
  • The acoustic arrangement of “Trampoline”
  • The touching tribute to both Malcolm X and Nina Simone (murdered and born, respectively, also on Feb. 21) with “All Blues Hail Mary”
  • JH’s rendition of Sam’s “Reflecting Light,” with a melody, according to Joe, “worthy of Nat Cole”
  • The encore featuring all players on Sam Phillips’ “One Day Late”

And, of course, to the surprise of nobody in attendance, the musicians onstage were the true highlight: Jay Bellerose, Jennifer Condos, Levon Henry, Patrick Warren and Eric Gorfain.  To those who recognize those names from their numerous collaborations with Joe and Sam, you already know that these players are truly miraculous.

I will admit that each time I’ve spent all morning on a plane from Texas to LA (usually with a turnaround the next day), I’ve wondered if it would be my last such trip.  Of course, humility should render the answer unknowable, in any case.  But so long as I have any say in the matter, I’m sure you’ve guessed that my answer is: no, probably not the last.

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.

Joe Henry interview with Greg Leisz in Fretboard Journal #33

Greg_LeiszIn its most recent newsletter, Fretboard Journal revealed 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.

If you have any interest whatsoever in Joe Henry’s guitars and his perspective on guitars, you should definitely think about ordering Issue #26 of FB.  Added bonus: Billy Gibbons cover story!  Also, a podcast interview with JH and a more recent online article about JH.

UPDATE:  Last year, Greg Leisz was also featured in a podcast interview with FB Journal’s Jason Verlinde about his contribution to a recent Buddy Emmons tribute album, among other topics.