|earMUSIC||October 27, 2017|
Joe Henry — Thrum (October 27, 2017)φ Joe Henry remains a unique voice on Thrum. The lyrics include flashes of humor and an appetite for the challenges of this world. But Henry has mortality on his mind and blood on the tracks. They warn us that life is a climb, letting go is part of the deal, and much of the rest is just a guess.
φ Along the way, these songs can serve as a source of comfort. There’s a label that deserves to stick. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)Roots~rock singer~songwriter who eventually incorporated elements of jazz, R&B, electronica, and more.
Born: Charlotte, NC
Album release: October 27, 2017
Record Label: earMUSIC
01 Climb 3:44
02 Believer 4:35
03 Dark Is Light Enough 5:47
04 Blood Of The Forgotten Song 6:23
05 World Of This Room 5:24
06 The Glorious Dead 4:43
07 Hungry 5:38
08 Quicksilver 4:12
09 River Floor 4:35
10 Now And Never 6:13
11 Keep Us In Song 4:27
φ In life as in song, Joe Henry says “we’re really called not to dispel mystery but to abide it, to engage it.” He brings an inward wisdom to the art and craft of making music. Cherished by fans and fellow musicians alike, he’s produced a dozen albums of his own and for an array of artists, including Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, and Billy Bragg. And he’s written songs together with Rosanne Cash and Madonna. With Joe Henry, we probe the mystery and adventure of discovering life through music.
Written By Hal Horowitz // October 26, 2017 // Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
φ At this stage in his 30~plus year recording career — both as an artist and producer to eclectic roots artists such as John Doe, Bettye Lavette, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and many more — singer~songwriter Joe Henry enters the studio with a firm grasp on what he wants to accomplish. For this set, a follow~up to 2014’s similarly styled Invisible Hour, his approach is audacious and auspicious.
φ The eleven songs are tracked live to tape in four sessions with a five piece band and producer Ryan Freeman working as an improvisational unit, like a jazz combo might. The predominantly acoustic instrumentation weaves around Henry’s often somber, melancholy yet never depressing voice and melodies that float, untethered to strict arrangements or standard structures. The sound is akin to Van Morrison at his most impressionistic, in large part letting the players determine the music’s direction.
φ Still, this is very much Henry’s vision. His concepts are poetically inspired, and even though his voice is up front and prominent in the mix, it helps to read the lyrics both as the tunes unspool and on their own, divested from the music. As titles such as “Dark is Light Enough,” “Blood of the Forgotten Song” and “The World of this Room” imply, these pieces celebrate unusual word craft that is sometimes clear, but most often can, like the project’s amorphous title, be interpreted many ways. Oblique images such as “The bride throws off her veil onto the groom/ ‘Salvation’ meaning nothing but ‘consumed’” are intriguing enough to mull over either with or without the help of the folk/jazz vibe these musicians — notably including Henry’s son Levon on woodwinds (and whistling!) — create. A string quartet also enters to provide appropriately classy accompaniment to the exquisite closing ballad “Keep Us in Song.” Those who have enjoyed David Crosby’s recent work would do well to dive in here.
φ Henry, his talented backing unit and producer create an album, similar to his past few, meant to be absorbed in its entirety, and perhaps best heard in solitude. His words are as engaging as the music; both work in tandem to create a meditative mood where the whole of the disc is greater than its parts. It’s a literate, lovely and artfully created set that assumes, even demands, the same attention and consideration from its audience as Henry has instilled into its creation. φ https://americansongwriter.com/
Andy Gill / Score: 4
Download: Climb; Dark Is Light Enough; Blood Of The Forgotten Song; Hungry
φ Despite a personal output of 14 solo albums, Joe Henry remains more celebrated as a producer than a performer in his own right, thanks to his knack for presenting Americana artists like Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke and Joan Baez in a contemporary light.
φ But you don’t work that long with legends without developing some skills of your own, and over the years Henry has matured into a songwriter of considerable accomplishment, a keen observer of human frailties able to capture subtle implications in distinctive phrasing.
φ For Thrum, Henry’s focus has shifted, he claims, from his original music influences toward “alignment with the mystic poets Rilke and Whitman, Rimbaud and Rumi” — a lofty claim, but one he comes close to fulfilling in these thoughtful, intelligent songs. He’s particularly good at the nature and need of narrative, noting in one song how “stories find us waiting for all we’ve given up”, and in the next depicting “our future writ out on the walls of the past, in the blood of the forgotten song” — a marvellous image evoking the link between life and art that separates true creativity from mere commerce. The arrangement follows through on this conviction, its brooding reeds and piano having the drained, enervated manner of a New Orleans funeral band: a matter as serious as your life.
φ “The Glorious Dead” commits further to that notion, with an account of an actual funeral procession, couched in fatalistic piano and guitar and the reflective sax of his son Levon Henry. Again, it’s a song bristling with vivid imagery that illuminates human hopes and needs: when he sings, “Once I put my finger to your lips, like they were a Bible written in braille”, the whole business of bereavement and devotion zooms into a fresh new focus.
φ The album was recorded, and mixed, live to tape by Henry’s long~time engineer Ryan Freeland, who was also given free rein to apply, on the hoof, the effects and ambient tones which lend a misty depth to the songs. It’s a risky process necessitating a high degree of empathy between the players: again, Henry employed his preferred studio crew, including bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose, a modern master of interpretive percussion.
φ “Dark Is Light Enough” exemplifies the result: the dusty clatter of drums and ambient noise creates a murk amid which glisten glints of violin and pedal steel guitar, perfectly conveying the mood of being haunted by nocturnal misgivings. Likewise, the mellotron chorale and strings of “Hungry” evoke a ghostly discontent, exposing the bony ribcage of the song’s soul. Not many artists can conjure up these kinds of evocations; but then, not many bother trying. φ http://www.independent.co.uk/l
|earMUSIC||October 27, 2017|