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Mr. Joe Henry

TINY VOICES (Anti) • Joe Henry

One of the kings of cool rides again, out of the producer's chair and back to the microphone. Equal parts short story writer, tone painter, and chef, his records turn out different than everybody else's. (With thirty five thousand records coming out a year these days, that's a compliment of a higher order than it might appear.)

I love what Joe says about taking the coward's way out and hiring the best musicians he can find. More so than his last and denser tour de force, Scar, I can actually picture these sessions, and how it went down in a live setting. It is a songwriter record, his always are. The singer songwriter tradition is where Joe Henry came from, but by Trampoline he took a left and just kept going.

And his lyrics did get further out there, more oblique and literate, but really the biggest shift was to open up the construct and to use jazz players and a more jazz mentality to make records. Not to make jazz records, that's not what he's doing. It's about songs and atmospheres, vocals, and not extended solos or improvisation for its own sake. It is polytonal and polyrhythmic, but it's about songs. Naturally, the more original a record is, the harder it is to describe in normal terms, that's why we include clips on the Listen page, so you can audition a few tunes. If these intrigue you, you can stream the CD in its entirety and see a preview of a short film about Tiny Voices by acclaimed director and filmographer Steven Lippman at the artist's website. (I love this country.)

Ron Miles on trumpet and especially Don Byron on bass clarinet, clarinet, and saxophone, are crucial contributors. So is S. Husky Hoskulds, who "recorded, mixed, chopped and channeled." Jay Bellerose on drums is very atmospheric and tonal when the situation calls for it (as we know from his playing on Gerry Leonard's CD) and grooves deeply throughout. There are several guitarists (the artist and Chris Bruce) and keyboardists (Dave Palmer and Patrick Warren), so it's a very small shame that one doesn't get to know who does what on what cut, but Jennifer Condos is the excellent bassist on all tracks.

We hope like hell to interview Joe Henry next month, and so we'll sign off here. Tiny Voices, well, it's a typically great release from the maverick artist, fresh from his Grammy winning production of the comeback record for Solomon Burke, a mighty showing, indeed. Don't forget to check clips on the Listen page and visit the artist’s site.
• FG

listen to clips      return to covers

puremusic interview with joe (2/2004)

joehenrylovesyoumadly.com      anti.com

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