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Joe Henry - Blood From Stars



Joe Henry Blood From Stars
Joe Henry - Blood From Stars
(CD) Anti- Records 87026, 2009-08-17

For more than two decades as a solo artist and Grammy-winning producer, Joe Henry has worked with some of the most celebrated names in music, including Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, T-Bone Burnett, Don Byron, Solomon Burke, Brad Mehldau, Madonna, and Ani DiFranco.

Backed by a handpicked collection of players, including Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) who worked with Henry on his 2001 release Scar and acclaimed jazz pianist Jason Moran, Henry crafted Blood From Stars with a clear idea of structure, but also with a refreshingly open and fluid approach to the outcome of the songs, creating a loose, swinging, vital sound.

Joe Henry Blood From Stars
Joe Henry - Blood From Stars
(CD) Anti- Records 87026, 2009-08-17

Tracklisting :
01. Prelude: Light No Lamp When The Sun Comes Down
02. The Man I Keep Hid
03. Channel
04. This Is My Favorite Cage
05. Death To The Storm
06. All Blues Hail Mary
07. Bellwether
08. Progress Of Love (Dark Ground)
09. Over Her Shoulder
10. Suit On A Frame
11. Truce
12. Stars
13. Coda: Light No Lamp When The Sun Comes Down

Links:
joehenrylovesyoumadly.com
anti.com/catalog/view/134/Blood_From_Stars

Press Release from Anti- Records:
For more than two decades as a solo artist and Grammy-winning producer, Joe Henry has worked with some of the most celebrated names in music, including Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, T-Bone Burnett, Don Byron, Solomon Burke, Brad Mehldau, Madonna, and Ani DiFranco.

On Blood from Stars, his remarkable and sprawling new album, Henry has the unprecedented pleasure of introducing the world to a new talent, a young saxophonist by the name of Levon Henry. "I was tempted to put him on my last record, Civilians (2007)," Henry explains of his seventeen-year-old son. "He wasn't quite ready for that -and neither was I. But in the last two years, he's found a voice and begun to speak in wildly expansive and complete sentences. It wasn't a matter of me thinking it would be cute to put him on a record. He was just the musician I most wanted to hear in that chair."

It doesn't take long to understand why. An award-winning player in his own right - he's won two soloist awards at the Monterey Jazz Festival's "Next Generation" competitions - Levon lends his velvety tone and lyrical phrasing to songs such as "Truce," and the instrumental "Over Her Shoulder," which his father wrote as a vehicle for him. Nowhere is his playing more incandescent than on "Stars." His soprano sax leaps and darts with a melodic agility and a terse beauty.

The album was recorded in Henry's own studio, which is located in the basement of the historic Garfield Home in South Pasadena, where Henry and his family now live. (An historical landmark, it was built in 1904 for the President's widow.) This made Levon's contributions that much easier. "Sometimes we had to do overdubs with him as opposed to recording him live, because he was at school," Henry recalls. "But then he'd come home, finish his homework, and come downstairs to join the festivities. It was lovely and strange, and yet it felt perfectly natural to direct him."

But like any Joe Henry record, Blood from Stars is a collaboration, in the deepest sense of the word. Henry has assembled a remarkable cast of players, from his longtime rhythm section (ace percussionist Jay Bellerose, bassist David Piltch, and keyboardist Patrick Warren), to newcomers like Keefus Ciancia, whose murmuring samples lend the proceedings a dreamy, fragmented and cinematic feel.

The sultry coronet riffs that drive "The Man I Keep Hid" and "Bellwether" come courtesy of guitarist Marc Ribot. "Not many people know Marc plays coronet," Henry observes, "and he doesn't do it a lot. He can do anything on guitar, of course, but it was sometimes much more to the point of my purposes that his deep musicality be articulated in a more primitive way. He brings a kind of raw, smeared-lipstick romanticism to whatever he does." Ribot's barbed electric guitar is also on display throughout, as are his flamenco sketches on the torch ballad "This Is My Favorite Cage."
And, of course, this being a Joe Henry production, there are all many unexpected turns in the road. He's recruited the brilliant young jazz pianist Jason Moran to deliver the piercing, hymn-like piano work of "Prelude: Light No Lamp When the Sun Comes Down," which opens the album like an overture. Likewise, when the time came to light a fire under the track "Death to the Storm," Joe called upon the Chocolate Genius himself, vocalist Marc Anthony Thompson, whose soulful swagger turns the track's chorus into an ominous house party.

Critics have long since given up trying to label Henry's sound. His music spans far too many genres. But the dominant sound on this record stems from blues tonality. Tracks such as "Bellwether" and "All Blues Hail Mary" begin as traditional blues forms ("I observed that structure like it was sonnet"), only to swell into ravishing epics that jump the rails to incorporate folky jazz and bent Sinatra-esque washes of sampled strings. "All the blues sing of love and death and you," Henry whispers in the latter, "As chances yet to take."

The line is typical of his lyrical touch. "I've read that I'm supposed to be a very literary songwriter, someone whose songs are short stories set to music. But I can't imagine what where that comes from. I'm not linear…not remotely a reliable narrator," he says. "All I'm trying to do is put a light on something; and sometimes the clearest path is not a straight one."

So this is what you can expect from Joe Henry's eleventh studio LP -a tour de force- in addition to all the desperate beauty and hypnotic vamping, the lush arrangements and seductive songlines: the sudden and thrilling illumination of places you've never been, but are somehow intimately familiar.

Press Release from JoeHenryLovesYouMadly.com :
Joe Henry to Release Blood From Stars August 18
Renaissance Man Eschews Decorum to Reveal More Vital, Raw and Dark 11th Album

Joe Henry's new record Blood From Stars begins with a poignant and haunting piano prelude before launching into "The Man I Keep Hid," a raw, bluesy track undercut with a ghostly voice of a man rambling on before Henry comes in with the first line "nobody knows the man that I keep hid." An apt beginning for Henry's eleventh full-length record, for Blood From Stars reveals a side of Henry rarely glimpsed in his recent work, which has been notable in its suave urbanity, poetic lyricism and literary sensibility. Rather, the new work is a passionate and direct breakthrough from one of today's most acclaimed singer songwriters.

"It's more emotionally available, certainly less mannered," says Henry, speaking of the difference between Blood From Stars and his 2007 release Civilians. "It's much more electric, in the literal and also the emotional sense of the word. It is raw, with many loose threads hanging."

Backed by a handpicked collection of players, including Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) who worked with Henry on his 2001 release Scar and acclaimed jazz pianist Jason Moran, Henry crafted Blood From Stars with a clear idea of structure, but also with a refreshingly open and fluid approach to the outcome of the songs, creating a loose, swinging, vital sound.

"Partly, I just loved what happened when this particular group of musicians heard a song and had to respond to it in a very immediate way," Henry explained. "I can always go back to what I thought [the song should sound like], but if you limit them to your own imagination, then you're just cutting yourself off from the richest resource you have."

Henry has spent the better part of the last decade in a recording studio, lending his considerable talents and tastes to producing records from the likes of Solomon Burke (who's Henry-produced Don't Give Up on Me won a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Blues album of 2002), Bettye LaVette, and many others.

"When I find the production work to be satisfying, it really does fuel more work. I tell my wife, ‘the more I work, the more I work.' It keeps the engine idling all the time. I used to see producing and my work as an artist to be separate enterprises but the more I've continued, I start to see less and less distinction between what I do for myself and what I do for other people. In both cases my job is to make something meaningful come out of a pair of speakers."

Two recent releases Henry produced, Allen Toussaint's the Bright Mississippi and Ramblin' Jack Elliott's A Stranger Here, find the venerable artists exploring classic blues songs. With his work as a producer and a songwriter overlapping and informing one another, it is only natural that the blues found their way onto Henry's Blood From Stars.

"I was playing with a writing form…a blues structure, in the same way that you might sit down and try to write a sonnet or a haiku. I was intrigued by how structured and how simple those ideas of, say, a pair of repeating lines answered by a refrain can be," Henry says and continues, "I've been reading a lot of poets lately, and lot of diverse poetry very consciously references a blues tonality, whether its Langston Hughes or Allen Ginsberg or e.e. cummings. Poets are very aware of the power of that structure."

Ultimately, Blood From Stars is a departure from the expected sound of a Joe Henry record, and its author seems perfectly at ease with his new persona. "If it's standing up, declaring itself as living thing, I'm completely enthralled by it. My ego has no problem with not controlling the process," he paused, then continued with a laugh, "as long as it makes me look good in the end."
Djouls

Djouls

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