joe henry

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 & Marc Ribot (Big Ears Festival, Apr 1): A review by Josh Hurst

{Ed. note: Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival has received widespread praise for its incredibly unique and adventurous lineup.  It should come as no surprise that Joe Henry and guitarist Marc Ribot should team up for such an event.  As luck would have it, our good friend (and JH aficionado), Josh Hurst,  has recently moved back to Knoxville and has kindly offered up this report from the show.  Many thanks to Josh for the contribution – enjoy…}

Knoxville, Tennessee’s much (and deservedly) ballyhooed Big Ears Festival is nothing if not diverse—this year’s lineup included moody jazz and electronics from Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith, druid drone from Sun O))), heady orchestrations from Laurie Anderson, saxophone catharsis from Kamsi Washington, and on and on—but if anything, the relentless parade of sound and color made the starkness of Joe Henry’s set stand out all the more. Joe was something like the troubadour in residence for the weekend revelry, one of the few (only?) performers to try leaving his audience spellbound and enraptured with nothing more than voice, song, and acoustic guitar; yet leave us spellbound and enraptured he did, not only because he performed highlights from all of his albums going back to Trampoline, but also because he was joined by acclaimed guitarist Marc Ribot on all but one song, plus reed man Levon Henry on three of them.

The setlist opened with “Trampoline” and concluded with a couple of songs off Invisible Hour; a stripped-down and spooky “Sold,” much-reworked “Like She Was a Hammer,” and ever-timely “Civil War” were additional highlights. I will take a moment of personal privilege to note the happy inclusion of my own favorite Joe Henry song, “Parker’s Mood.” Joe was in fine voice and good spirits, and Ribot, of course, tore it up, most notably with his frantic pyrotechnics on Blood from Stars’ bluesier numbers like “Bellwether” and “All Blues Hail Mary.” Levon’s highlight was likely “Eyes Out for You,” where his sax work reminded me of no one more than Sonny Rollins, encompassing the full vocabulary of the horn from sound effects/background ambiance to beautiful flights of melody.

Joe has toured just a bit more than usual in recent years, it would seem, and many who have attended these shows comment on the warmth present there, the generosity of spirit; Joe is a conceptual thinker who tends to have big ideas about recordings and performances, but the pleasure of his live shows is in how he just lets the songs and stories work their charms, no further unifying thread needed. The Big Ears performance seemed, from my vantage point up front, like it was well-received by the audience, and just in making my way into the theater I encountered people who’d driven in from Georgia, South Carolina, and even Pennsylvania (!!) for an all-too-rare opportunity to see our man at work. I don’t imagine any left disappointed, and personally, I stand by my conviction that Joe’s set was worth the Big Ears admission price all on its own.

Joe Henry interview with The Bluegrass Situation

A new interview with Joe Henry always leaves you with plenty to absorb.  So enjoy this one with The Bluegrass Situation’s esteemed Stephen Duesner, as part of their ongoing The Producers series.

They begin with a discussion of the new Hayes Carll album, but there are plenty of insights from JH on his role as record producer.

Hear the new Joe Henry-produced Hayes Carll album now

Hayes_2016_3I guess it’s no secret that I’m very excited about the new Hayes Carll record Lovers and Leavers – first, because it’s a new Hayes Carll record (following a five year wait), and second, because it was produced by Joe Henry.

The album will be released next week on April 8, but you can listen to the whole thing at Rolling Stone now, accompanied by a substantial article.  Carll will host his gathering of the Drunken Poets’ Society this weekend in Port Aransas, Texas, then promote the album’s release with a brief Texas tour before embarking on a late-April UK tour.  He’ll hit much of the United States throughout the summer (tour dates here).

Josh Hurst reviews Birds of Chicago’s ‘Real Midnight’

birds_of_chicagoI 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”…

Joe Henry to appear at Over The Rhine’s Nowhere Else Festival in May

Following last year’s inaugural Nowhere Else Festival at their home, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over The Rhine have expanded the format of this year’s festival to include several guest artists.  I wasn’t able to find the contents of their latest email update online, so I’ve just reproduced it here.  Joe Henry will appear at the festival this year, alongside several other noteworthy artists, including Levon Henry.  A festival FAQ link and ticket link can be found at the bottom of the update…

Dear barn swallows, barn owls, barn raisers, blue jean sky dreamers, hayloft guitars, barn dance beauties…

Last May we gathered on the beautiful piece of unpaved earth we have come to call home for special barn-raising concerts. It was truly the weekend of a lifetime for Karin and I as we began taking real steps toward the next chapter for our music and life’s work. Saving and restoring a 140-year-old barn was something we could never have done on our own. Just like in years long past, it still takes a community and extended family.

This year we are growing.

Hopefully you’ve heard by now that Karin and I are hosting our first Music and Arts Festival on the farm this Memorial Day Wknd, May 28 & 29. (There is a special gathering on the 27th as well.)

What fun it has been to invite some of the songwriters, visual artists and writers who have shared the journey – people who have not only inspired our work, but who have kindled in us the desire to be better people.

We started by asking three of our most important, treasured teachers – and dear friends. Imagine our joy when they all said yes!

Perhaps you’ll tolerate our excitement if we write just a few personal reflections on a few of them. (We’ll announce the full line-up and festival schedule soon – some artists and writers are still being confirmed.)

So without further ado, here is a first taste of some of our favorite people – some of those who will be joining us this Memorial Day Weekend at Nowhere Else Festival 2016! We truly hope you can be a part of it.

Rivers and oceans,

Linford and Karin

First, we invited Michael Wilson. Michael is one of the great photographers and picture-makers of our generation and has been a faithful friend since we met in 1988. He probably doesn’t think of himself as having helped mentor Karin and I but that’s exactly what he did. Over the years he has made beautiful portraits of many of our songwriting peers and heroes.  He was the first person to spin a Tom Waits record for us late one night. He has contributed photographs to over 20 of our recording projects, and his beautiful work undoubtedly made the songs more resonant than they would have been on their own.

We can’t host our first music and arts festival without Michael and his work. Michael will present some of his photographs in the barn, talk about his work and some of the pictures that made him want to be a photographer. You’ll also have the opportunity to follow Michael and his camera on a photo ramble through nearby Wilmington, Ohio, and make pictures alongside a true master of the craft.

Check out some of Michael’s photographs here: michaelwilson.pictures

Joe Henry was our next call. Joe is a multiple Grammy-award winning songwriter, record producer, writer, espresso connoisseur and so much more. At a turning point in our career, Joe helped Karin and I blow the seams out of our songs and record The Long Surrender and Meet Me At The Edge Of The World – records that were funded by our extended musical family, and therefore collaborative efforts at art making.

As a brother and kindred spirit, Joe has opened and nurtured an ongoing conversation with us that has continued to billow our sails. Meeting and working with Joe is one of the reasons that Karin can even now say with full conviction, There is still so much music left to be made.

Joe introduced us to the incredible musicians who eventually became The Band of Sweethearts, and of course they will be present at the festival as well.

Joe and his band will be performing at the festival but we’ll also find opportunities for Joe to perform solo and talk about his life’s work and discoveries as a songwriter, record producer, author and consummate student of life. Don’t miss this unique chance to lean fully into his sway.

BARRY MOSER has illustrated over 300 books. In addition to being an illustrator, he is also a printer, painter, printmaker, designer, author, essayist and teacher. (Not to mention dog lover.) He has won far too many awards to list.

His illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland won him a National Book Award for design and illustration. His illustrations for Moby Dick confirmed his world-class stature as one of the great engravers and printmakers of our generation.

Barry’s work is represented in numerous collections, museums and libraries in the United States and abroad, including the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum, The British Museum, The Library of Congress, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge et cetera.

One rewarding thing about being a songwriter is you never quite know where the path will lead. Meeting and befriending Barry has been one of the great, good, unexpected gifts of this life. And Barry has taught us so much as we have shared a thousand laughs…

Barry was the first person we heard announce to any artist within earshot: “Talent is as common as house dust, and about as useful as teats on a boar hog…”

To Barry, it’s not about talent, it’s about doing the work.

Barry encourages all of his students not to call themselves “artists” but rather to call themselves by the work they do: songwriter, painter, writer, pianist, photographer… Barry says, let someone else decide if it’s art. Keep your focus on the work at hand, the craft. Make it about doing your best work.

Barry was the only 20th Century artist to profusely illustrate the King James Bible. There are only a few of these treasures still available – The Pennyroyal Caxton primary edition was limited to 450 copies. (Most were snatched up by the world’s great art museums and libraries…) Barry has donated one of these few remaining editions to our barn raising effort. It will be made available for bid at Nowhere Else Festival, and someone will take home a timeless work of art that can be passed down for many generations to come.

At the festival, Barry will be reading from his fine new memoir, We Were Brothers, and offering a number of workshops. You may well have occasion to meet and draw with one of the great artists – we said it – of our time.

So there you have it. It’s not an overstatement to say that Karin and I would have likely hung up our songwriting hats along the way had we not met these three unique, gifted artists and fellow-travelers. We can’t wait to share them with you.

Briefly, allow us to mention a few other gifted folks who will be descending on the farm with all manner of goodness to share:

We asked five-time Grammy Award winners THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA to have the last word this year. After all, we’re putting up a big, beautiful tent, why not close the festival with a tent-meeting revival of sorts. We’re going to let the Blind Boys’ soulful harmonies baptize the farm with roiling joy. Lift a glass, shed a few tears. What a coup.

We asked Rebecca Weller to discuss and display some of the beautiful paintings she’s been making of Ohio’s native songbirds ~ the birds we see most everyday on Nowhere Farm/Nowhere Else.

We asked Levon Henry to share some of the songs he’s been writing, and to bring his saxophone and sit in on some of the songs that he has recorded with us – There’s A Bluebird In My Heart, All My Favorite People… He’ll be performing with his father Joe’s band as well. Can’t wait for the sound of his voice and horn to put our world on notice.

Songwriter and story-teller extraordinaire Lucy Wainwright Roche will be on the scene, offering her songs and spring-water clear voice.

Cincinnati musical institution, The Comet Bluegrass Allstars, will pull from their 1000 song repertoire and grace our place with their virtuosity and humor.

And of course Over the Rhine and the Band of Sweethearts will offer concerts each day of the festival. It’s our party and we’ll cry (and laugh) if we want to…

There is more to come! We will announce the full festival line-up and schedule soon. There are additional workshops tba, and I’m planning a little nature walk on the farm with gifted nature photographer Kent Burgess and naturalist Kent Mitchell – we’ll ramble around, talk trees, songbirds, wildflowers, wild edges – and call them by name.

As we continue to reinvent and re-imagine what it means to have a music career in 2016, we hope you will join us on the farm for what’s shaping up to be a truly amazing weekend. Please share and help us spread the word.

Nowhere Else Festival tickets available here:
http://stores.portmerch.com/overtherhine/nowhere-else-festival.html

FAQ available here:
http://portmerch.com/downloads/2016_Festival_FAQ.pdf

Peace like a river, love like an ocean,

Linford and Karin