As many of you probably know by now, in late 2018, Joe Henry received a difficult cancer diagnosis that would sideline his early 2019 tour dates and, without a doubt, present him with unforeseen challenges throughout the year.
JH triumphantly returns with a new album The Gospel According To Water on November 15 – one year to the day after receiving his diagnosis. Originally intended as demo recordings, the two-day sessions blossomed into a fully realized a record with the help of several frequent collaborators. Levon Henry, David Piltch, Patrick Warren and John Smith – all tried and true musical compatriots – dropped in to add their immeasurable talents to the mix.
You can pre-order the vinyl and CD at Joe’s website, as well as order some limited edition prints by Jacob Blickenstaff which were taken at Largo when JH appeared there in July.
In the press release, JH provides his own thoughts…
The album is called The Gospel According To Water. It was recorded over two days this past June —and fairly blind-sided me, when I thought I was merely making reference demos of thirteen new songs ahead of forgetting them. All but two of these songs were written between Valentines and Fathers Days; all having flowered from the black earth of recent experience —namely a cancer diagnosis late last fall that left me reeling —though, as well, set into motion many wild blessings and positive shifts in my life, along with an unprecedented songwriting flurry.
With only a handful of friends playing in support, I entered the studio and tore through these songs with determination and joyful abandon, then went home. I had let nothing clutter or distract me from their essential and true heart; and upon waking the morning after, I understood that something significantly more had transpired —that the songs as articulated had sparked an ember that somehow remained bright and alive before me, moving beyond my expectations.
I unexpectedly heard the songs as complete, and vividly so; and knew that the casual circumstances had not limited my expression but in fact liberated me from the cloying aim for posterity that can make weighty any session, and landed me instead in a place both unencumbered by the past and unattached to futures.
Though they have all grown out of darkness, I don’t believe any of these songs themselves to be “dark” in nature, nor about the circumstance that prompted their discovery. In them, I hear the re-accessing of my imagination and its greater invitation; hear deep gratitude, and a compassion toward self that I don’t always possess; an optimism I did not know I’d allowed to flourish.
These recordings are raw and wirey and spare because the songs insisted they be. But I believe them to be as wholly realized —as “produced” as anything I’ve touched, as well as being deeply and fundamentally romantic: in love with life, even when that life founders and threatens to disappear; lustfully aglow, not in spite of storm but because of one.
Come November, then, I will hand this all over —while the sky is bright, and leaves are still turning and descending —the days listing as they grow brisk and shorter.
Just in time for Thanksgiving.