Rhiannon Giddens

The Story Behind Allen Toussaint’s ‘American Tunes’

Nonesuch has posted a lovely essay by Michael Hill detailing the making of Allen Toussaint’s final album, American Tunes.  You can read several excerpts from the liner notes, including quotes by album producer Joe Henry.

American Tunes will be released on June 10.

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!

Rhiannon Giddens and Iron & Wine team up for Joe Henry-produced Bob Dylan cover

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.

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’s Bitter Tears project due Aug. 19 (updated)

Bitter_Tears

UPDATE 7/11:  Full press release at Sony’s website.

UPDATE 7/9:  You can pre-order the record at the iTunes store and download “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” featuring Kris Kristofferson with Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (or you can download the track individually).

UPDATE 7/8:  USA Today has a few more details, all of which make this sound like a uniquely collaborative effort between the artists.

{Original post…}

As you may recall, Joe Henry spent the first months of 2014 producing a very unique project, a re-imagining of Johnny Cash’s equally unique record Bitter Tears.

The record features performances by Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Bill Miller, Rhiannon Giddens and The Milk Carton Kids.  The album will mark the 50th anniversary and be accompanied by the release of a documentary directed by Antonio D’Ambrosio, who also wrote the very excellent book about the original album, A Heartbeat and A Guitar.

The album is reportedly due August 19 from Sony Masterworks, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing a whole lot more about it in the coming weeks.  Press notes below:

Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited

50th Anniversary of Cash’s Landmark Album

Produced by Joe Henry, featuring Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Bill Miller and more

Of all the dozens of albums released by Johnny Cash during his nearly half-century career, 1964’s “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian” is among the closest to the artist s heart. A concept album focusing on the mistreatment and marginalization of the Native American people throughout the history of the United States, its eight songs among them “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a #3 hit single for Cash on the Billboard country chart spoke in frank and poetic language of the hardships and intolerance they endured.

Now, 50 years after it was recorded, a collective of top Americana artists has come together to re-imagine and update these songs that meant so much to Cash, who died in 2003. For “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited,” creative leader and album producer Joe Henry (Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville) realized that the “Bitter Tears” album held a special place in Cash’s canon, and that in many ways the issues it raised still resonate today. This had to be apparent in the new versions he was recording for “Look Again to the Wind.” The album features American music giants Kris Kirstofferson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Bill Miller, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Norman Blake (the guitarist and only surviving member from the original recording sessions) as well as up-and-comers The Milk Carton Kids and Rhiannon Giddens, interpreting the music of “Bitter Tears” for a new generation. As the original album was for Cash, this new collection is a labor of love with a strong sense of purpose fueling its creation. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, Nashville and at Johnny Cash’s personal recording studio, Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, TN.

As a companion piece to the album, the documentary, “We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash s Bitter Tears Revisited,” traces the history of “Bitter Tears” and the making of “Look Again to the Wind.” The film is directed by Antonio D Ambrosio, author of “A Heartbeat and a Guitar,” a book about the making of “Bitter Tears.”