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Joe Henry - Blood From Stars


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According to UPS, my Amazon-ordered CD went from Campbellstown, Kentucky...to Anchorage, Alaska...to Ontario, California.

It's not getting any closer to Seattle.

Satan's plan to prevent me from listening to Joe Henry's latest?

So much for Amazon Prime.

It had a good beat, I could dance to it. I give it an 8.
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According to UPS, my Amazon-ordered CD went from Campbellstown, Kentucky...to Anchorage, Alaska...to Ontario, California.

It's not getting any closer to Seattle.

I think you were supposed to flag the truck down between Alaska and California!

Did you try the NPR link several posts ago?

Perhaps Jeffrey will agree to loan you his iPod on lunch hour.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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It has arrived, just in time for a couple long plane flights during which I can commit the album to memory.

According to UPS, my Amazon-ordered CD went from Campbellstown, Kentucky...to Anchorage, Alaska...to Ontario, California.

It's not getting any closer to Seattle.

I think you were supposed to flag the truck down between Alaska and California!

Did you try the NPR link several posts ago?

Perhaps Jeffrey will agree to loan you his iPod on lunch hour.

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I'll leave the careful reviews to those with the time and experience, but I can't help but pointing out an interesting personal connection to Greg P.'s post about Gillian Welch's Time album.

Blood From Stars may well end up being something like the album of the decade...it's too early to tell (although I love what I've heard so far). But when someone starts throwing around "album of the decade" talk, the only album that really comes to mind is Time (The Revelator). I don't listen too it too often. And it took a few years of owning it and listening to it to really get a feel for it in my bones. But I sure hope Blood will turn out to have such timeless endurance.

So you ladies and you gentlemen, pull your bloomers on...

-Joe Henry

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This week on Sam Phillips' The Long Play website, Sam offers a recording of a conversation between her and Joe Henry, who will be singing "Silent Night" with her on an upcoming release. During their conversation, he talks about Mavis Staples, and then sings a Leadbelly song a capella. They go on to talk about songwriting, and the magic that happens during recording sessions in Joe Henry's basement. And we learn about another particular talent of Joe's...

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I think I was first out of the box here to question the raves for Blood From Stars, so let me go on the record that my second listen, currently ongoing, is much more stimulating than my first. Maybe this CD will grow on me.

Part of what's fueling this reassessment, no doubt, is the stack of CDs on my desk that I've been listening to -- a stack of titles mentioned here, mostly favorably. A couple of Panic at the Disco CDs (not sure if those were mentioned here, come to think of it), Vampire Weekend, Camera Obscura, Andrew Bird and Drive By Truckers. Earlier I had a Bon Iver CD that I've since returned to the library. The Drive By Truckers CD strikes me as derivative, but still pretty raw. I couldn't tell you much about the other groups, not even after a couple of listens. I feel like I should be gravitating toward Bird's music, but it just ain't happening.

Joe Henry wins. Decisively.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I did well sleep and drank a big cup of coffee: I'm now prepared to give this album the full attention it deserves.

First, as a French and non-perfect English speaker I have a hard time to get into the lyrics and all the subtleties of their meaning, but can appreciate the richness of metaphors nonetheless, and am impressed. It really reads like poetry. Musically, it's tasteful and very American, in the jazz-blues field. Joe Henry seems to combine both worlds: the musical one of Billie Holiday, and the lyrical one of Bob Dylan or Townes Van Zandt.

I guess I could spend hours to read and read these lyrics again, trying to put them in French. But those languages are so different, and I'm not expert enough, so I'll let this fun aside.

I have two little questions, and another one.

The two little questions:

1) It is said in the booklet that a phrase from the remarkable "Progress of Love" is borrowed from a Rosanne Cash poem: which phrase? which poem? Anyone knows?

2) Anyone noticed that this CD seems to have three parts, if we pay attention to the way the song-titles are presented on the back cover?

The other question is one I ask to myself: the artistical world of Joe Henry is a "great" one, and it sets again the debate of minor and major arts (a debate that is at least familiar in France since Serge Gainsbourg asserted in a Bernard Pivot show that "pop music" is a minor art, compared to "classical music" for instance, which may sound obvious to anybody, but deserves to be debated on many levels - the provocative tone of Gainsbourg treating "pop music" like bullshit, to say it frankly - and he wasn't kind with his own "pop art" either, being the frustrated artist he was - by the way, a movie of his life is out in France these days, I think I'll go watch that!).

I mean: I also shamelessly enjoy a CD by a French girl band called the Plastiscines, and a song of them could appear on my 2009 mix CD, beside a Joe Henry one. Isn't that ridiculous? How to stay clever with so different music worlds? But where to draw the line between "minor" and "major" art (I don't know if you use these words like the French, "majeur" meaning "important")?

We have a power pop thread here, for instance: is it as "major" as the jazz one? Do we have to consider the importance of "fun"? And of "pop/rock music"?

I guess it makes for another thread, but that's the kind of thoughts to which the listening of this Joe Henry album leads me to this morning. The world of Joe Henry is serious, dark, adult and spiritual, to the point of dividing musical approaches.

(and thank you all for tolerating my English here ;) )

Edited by Hugues
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I did well sleep and drank a big cup of coffee: I'm now prepared to give this album the full attention it deserves.

First, as a French and non-perfect English speaker I have a hard time to get into the lyrics and all the subtleties of their meaning, but can appreciate the richness of metaphors nonetheless, and am impressed. It really reads like poetry. Musically, it's tasteful and very American, in the jazz-blues field. Joe Henry seems to combine both worlds: the musical one of Billie Holiday, and the lyrical one of Bob Dylan or Townes Van Zandt.

I guess I could spend hours to read and read these lyrics again, trying to put them in French. But those languages are so different, and I'm not expert enough, so I'll let this fun aside.

I have two little questions, and another one.

The two little questions:

1) It is said in the booklet that a phrase from the remarkable "Progress of Love" is borrowed from a Rosanne Cash poem: which phrase? which poem? Anyone knows?

2) Anyone noticed that this CD seems to have three parts, if we pay attention to the way the song-titles are presented on the back cover?

The other question is one I ask to myself: the artistical world of Joe Henry is a "great" one, and it sets again the debate of minor and major arts (a debate that is at least familiar in France since Serge Gainsbourg asserted in a Bernard Pivot show that "pop music" is a minor art, compared to "classical music" for instance, which may sound obvious to anybody, but deserves to be debated on many levels - the provocative tone of Gainsbourg treating "pop music" like bullshit, to say it frankly - and he wasn't kind with his own "pop art" either, being the frustrated artist he was - by the way, a movie of his life is out in France these days, I think I'll go watch that!).

I mean: I also shamelessly enjoy a CD by a French girl band called the Plastiscines, and a song of them could appear on my 2009 mix CD, beside a Joe Henry one. Isn't that ridiculous? How to stay clever with so different music worlds? But where to draw the line between "minor" and "major" art (I don't know if you use these words like the French, "majeur" meaning "important")?

We have a power pop thread here, for instance: is it as "major" as the jazz one? Do we have to consider the importance of "fun"? And of "pop/rock music"?

I guess it makes for another thread, but that's the kind of thoughts to which the listening of this Joe Henry album leads me to this morning. The world of Joe Henry is serious, dark, adult and spiritual, to the point of dividing musical approaches.

(and thank you all for tolerating my English here ;) )

Your English is just fine. I don't know the answer to the Rosanne Cash question, but I think you're absolutely correct that Joe Henry's album ought to be seen as an album, and not a mere collection of songs, and that it unfolds in three acts, much like a play. There is, in fact, a prologue and an epilogue as well.

Re: your big question about "major" and "minor" art, I think the debate certainly rages in the U.S. (and everywhere art is made, I suspect). Personally, I think comparing classical music to pop music is fruitless. I'm content to like both, and see no need to elevate one over the other, particularly because they're radically different expressions. I will say that snobbery exists all along whatever aesthetic continuum people want to construct. There are highbrow classical music effetes who will sniff haughtily at the mere mention of artistic excellence in pop music. And there are pop music fanatics who will roll their eyes at the perceived pretentiousness of classical music. They're both right, and they're both wrong. I, alone, am right. ;) And even though I don't really believe that, I do think there's an inevitable tendency to elevate whatever one happens to love to art-that-ought-to-be-universally-loved/objective-truth/what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-these-people status.

I love Joe Henry's music for many reasons, but certainly one of them is the beauty of the language he uses. He is a poet, he clearly thinks long and hard about the words he strings together, and there's a depth and complexity to the viewpoints he expresses. All of that sets him apart from a lot of popular music. At the same time, I also believe it's hard to improve upon:

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby

Don't you know my love is true?

Honey, honey, honey, honey, honey

Get up offa that money

Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss

Oooh! my soul

That's Little Richard, circa 1956, and it rocks like crazy, and sometimes that's all I'm looking for. I'm glad I don't have to choose between Joe Henry and Little Richard, too. I think it's okay to like both. So Serge Gainsbourg can construct his hierarchies of major and minor art. Go for it, Serge. Have fun, although I'm not exactly sure how that will happen. At the end of the day, I'm looking for music that will startle me and wake me up from the lethargy of the routine, that will make me feel alive, that will stir the wellsprings of hope or compassion or anything that looks like something other than benumbed sleepwalking through life. Thank God for Mozart and Joe Henry and Little Richard. I'll let others duke it out over which one is best.

Edited by Andy Whitman
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I hate you all. ;) Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Congrats to Mr. Henry for his two Grammy nominations. Not that Grammies ever make any sense, but it's nice when they accidentally acknowledge something that's actually worth hearing.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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A few quick Joe Henry updates ...

Joe has been hard at work producing Harry Belafonte's latest album, Harry's first studio album in almost 20 years. His next project will be producing an Aaron Neville gospel album, with possible involvement from Allen Toussaint.

Joe sent me a demo of a song he wrote between Christmas and New Year's Day, a lovely, sad tribute to Vic Chesnutt called "Room at Arles (For Vic)." Only Joe would make the connections between the emotional and physical disabilities of Vincent Van Gogh and Vic Chesnutt. It's heartbreaking and it's disturbing, full of imagery of legs and shoes, and the haunting memory of what life was like without wheelchairs, and features the remarkable line "My hands are wet from walking but I'm high enough to see." I'm hoping it's a foretaste of great music to come.

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I'm glad you mentioned that Vic Chesnutt song, Andy; honestly, it's one of the most raw and moving things he's written-- he does for Chesnutt what he did for Richard Pryor and Charlie Parker-- and I've been hoping and praying that he includes it on his next studio album. The final line is so wrenching I dare not post it here.

And in further Joe Henry news, I'll note again that his NEXT project to hit shelves is the Carolina Chocolate Drops album he produced, which has its own, separate thread here.

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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  • 1 month later...

Set list from last night's fantastic Joe Henry show with David Piltch and Jay Bellerose:



  • Bellwether
  • Channel
  • Progress of Love
  • My Favorite Cage
  • Sold
  • All Blues Hail Mary
  • The Lighthouse
  • Truce
  • A Suit on My Frame
  • The Man I Keep Hid
  • Trampoline
  • Stop
  • Our Song
  • Light No Lamp When the Sun Goes Down
  • Civilians
  • Your Side of My World

ENCORES

  • You Can't Fail Me Now
  • Edgar Bergen

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Hi, friends.

When I was in college in the mid-90s I had a friend who I discussed music with who loved Joe Henry. We had tons of common loves (Dylan, King's X, Mark Eitzel, Mark Lanegan, R.E.M., Radiohead, etc.), yet I never pursued Henry in the same way that he never pursued Son Volt or 16 Horsepower or whatever else I was recommending to him at the time.

That said, I recently purchased the Joe Henry catalog based on the love he receives here.

It reminds me of Sting.

What am I missing?

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Hi, friends.

When I was in college in the mid-90s I had a friend who I discussed music with who loved Joe Henry. We had tons of common loves (Dylan, King's X, Mark Eitzel, Mark Lanegan, R.E.M., Radiohead, etc.), yet I never pursued Henry in the same way that he never pursued Son Volt or 16 Horsepower or whatever else I was recommending to him at the time.

That said, I recently purchased the Joe Henry catalog based on the love he receives here.

It reminds me of Sting.

What am I missing?

Ears, apparently. :)

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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