I have to confess that I somewhat glossed over the release of Birds of Chicago’s Real Midnight back in February. Having received the Kickstarter digital copy back in November, it just kind of fell below my radar when it was officially released. In fact, I really only started spending quality time with the album over the past two weeks, and it is something quite special.
As luck would have it, our old friend, Josh Hurst, has revamped his own website and has just reviewed Real Midnight. As he often does, he finds the perfect words to describe the spirit of this album. As you may recall, Real Midnight was the final album recorded at Joe Henry’s Garfield House studio. Jay Bellerose plays drums on the record, and Rhiannon Giddens provides vocals and fiddle on a couple of tracks.
Also, be sure to check out Josh’s recent reviews of Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20 and Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Let Me Get By, two of my other favorite releases of 2016.
UPDATE: Over The Rhine recently announced that Birds of Chicago will be joining the lineup of their Nowhere Else Festival over Memorial Day weekend (see below post for more details).
Also, you should definitely check out their recent Folk Alley Sessions. Here’s “Remember Wild Horses”…
A couple of other noteworthy tracks produced by Joe Henry are now available:
- Aimee Mann recorded a version of The Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More” for the new HBO series Vinyl. It was produced by JH, and you can listen to it on Stefan’s site or purchase the track from iTunes.
- Hayes Carll has released another track from his upcoming JH-produced record, Lovers & Leavers. “Sake of the Song” can be heard over at Rolling Stone or purchased from iTunes (separately or included with the album pre-order). The album will be released on April 8.
Bonnie Raitt returned from a long recording hiatus with the release of her last record, the widely acclaimed Slipstream. The seeds of that record were sown in the basement of Joe Henry’s former residence, Garfield House. Though much of Slipstream was comprised of tracks recorded later and produced by Raitt herself, four of the tracks from those Garfield sessions – including two Bob Dylan songs and two JH-penned songs – were included and considered among the highlights of the record.
Today Bonnie Raitt releases a welcome follow-up titled Dig In Deep. Though the record largely contains new recordings (once again produced by Raitt), she felt the inclusion of another song from the Garfield House sessions was appropriate, this one written by JH himself and titled “You’ve Changed My Mind.” From the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot:
On “Dig in Deep,” she ties together devastating performances of Bonnie Bishop’s “Undone” and Joe Henry’s acoustic “You’ve Changed my Mind,” with her own stark composition, “The Ones We Couldn’t Be.”
Check out the song and whole album today.
The long-awaited new record from Hayes Carll will be released on April 8. Lovers and Leavers was produced by Joe Henry and promises to highlight Carll’s more introspective songwriting.
NPR Music is featuring the track “The Love That We Need” and does not disappoint. This is going to be a helluva record.
(BTW, over the holidays, I was fortunate to see Carll at The Mucky Duck in Houston. All of the new material he played was top-notch, and he was joined on a few songs by singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, who also co-wrote “The Love That We Need” along with Jack Ingram.)
Joe Henry adds a pretty serious Nashville record to his production resume today with the release of The Traveling Kind, the second duo record from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Which is not to say (obviously) that the album at all embraces the prevailing aesthetic of popular Nashville, but the album is a JH rarity in that none of his regular cohorts appear on it. Instead, Harris and Crowell are surrounded by Music City stalwarts like guitarists Steuart Smith and Jedd Hughes and bassist Byron House. It was recorded at Sound Emporium and The House of Blues, with recording and mixing by Justin Neibank.
To my ears, this record is both a continuation of and an improvement over their 2013 collaboration Old Yellow Moon. Here are a few review links:
UPDATE III: A great performance of “The Weight of the World” as performed for Rolling Stone (link also has a video for “The Traveling Kind”). Jedd Hughes, who appears on the record and tours with the duo, provides lead guitar.
The Cleveland Scene has a fantastic interview with Bettye LaVette, breaking down worth track-by-track.
Also, check out Bettye’s gorgeous performance of The Beatles’ “Wait” on the Late Show with David Letterman:
In a rather stunning post, Joe Henry has announced that it is time for his family to move on from Garfield House in Pasadena, where JH has been planting his production roots since around 2007. I’ll let you read his heartfelt words and ponder them in due course.
However, if you would like to fund one of the last productions to be held at Garfield, check out the new Kickstarter-funded project from Birds of Chicago. As it happens, the duo entered The Garfield House today, with JH at the helm. The project incidentally reached 100% funding today, but you can still chip in to help the band reach their stretch goals.
And should you be so inclined, raise a glass to the stunning recordings that have emerged over the years from the space that Joe Henry and engineer Ryan Freeland transformed from a humble basement to a world-class recording studio (apologies for any recordings I omit off the top of my head):
- Joe Henry – Civilians
- Loudon Wainwright III – Strange Weirdos
- Mary Gauthier – Between Daylight and Dark
- Mose Allison – The Way of the World
- Rodney Crowell – Sex & Gasoline
- Loudon Wainwright III – Recovery
- Joe Henry – Blood From Stars
- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – A Stranger Here
- Over The Rhine – The Long Surrender
- Aaron Neville – I Know I’ve Been Changed
- Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail
- Joe Henry – Reverie
- Over The Rhine – Meet Me At The Edge Of The World
- Joe Henry – Invisible Hour
- Bettye LaVette – Worthy
Nonesuch has released a digital single of a cover of the classic Dylan song “Forever Young,” performed by Rhiannon Giddens and Iron & Wine. The song was produced by Joe Henry and featured in the series finale of NBC’s Parenthood.
Giddens, as you’ll recall, has worked with JH as both a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and as a solo act (she was a guest on last year’s JH projects Look Again To The Wind and Caitriona O’Leary’s The Wexford Carols).
Rhiannon Giddens profile is likely to raised even further in the coming weeks with the release of her T Bone Burnett-produced solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn (due Feb. 10 on Nonesuch). She was recently featured in a lengthy feature by The New York Times’ Jon Pareles and also participated in Burnett’s hand-picked ensemble for 2014’s The New Basement Tapes.
Well, I’m only about three listens in to the exceptional, Joe Henry-produced new album by Bettye LaVette, but I’m more than comfortable placing Worthy in my personal Top Five Joe Henry Productions. A true master class of song selection, production, pacing and performace, Worthy lives up to its title and then some. It’s hard to know where to start — certainly the additional decade of experience between JH and Bettye LaVette is on full display (remember that back in 2004 JH was actually a somewhat new name among hired producers). As always, the players on a JH production play a key role. Along with stellar support from Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Bruce and Jay Bellerose (and yes, Levon Henry contributes a horn arrangement to one track), I’d have to give the MVP nod to Patrick Warren’s piano, which adds perhaps the most unexpectedly distinctive voice to the songs. Of course, nothing can compare to LaVette’s uncanny ability to transform others’ songs into something quite her own. Her interpretive gifts are a wonder to behold and this record more than justifies her place among the elite singers of our time. A few release day notes…
- Bettye LaVette was slated to begin her two-week residency at Café Carlyle in NYC, but I believe tonight’s performance has been postponed or canceled due to the ongoing blizzard in the Northeast. Check with the venue for confirmation and word on the rest of the week’s performances.
- Jim Farber has a nice article on LaVette in the New York Daily News.
- There’s a great piece in this month’s Mix Magazine, with JH and Ryan Freeland discussing the recording of Worthy.
- You can hear the record in its entirety over at The Wall Street Journal.
- Mark Deming has a rave review of the record on All Music Guide.
- PopMatters’ Colin McGuire give Worthy and 8 out of 10.
- Blurt’s Michael Toland delivers an insightful, four-star review.
- Photos from Wednesday’s performance at Café Carlyle (Bettye was also interviewed by Paul Schaefer).
- A recent interview with The Guardian.
- UPDATED: Josh Hurst contributes his review to Medium.
BTW, my autographed copy arrived yesterday, which can be purchased from LaVette’s website, in both the standard edition and deluxe edition (which includes a DVD performance from July 2014 in London).
The new Joe Henry-produced album, Worthy, by Bettye LaVette will be released in just about a month. This fantastic track is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Unbelievable” from his album Under The Red Sky.