Joe Henry

Author: Janet



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Joe Henry is best known for his two country-influenced albums, 1992′s Short Man’s Room and 1993′s Kindness of the World, both of which feature members of the country-rock band the Jayhawks, but his musical direction has actually changed several times over the course of his recording career, reflecting his restless, adventurous spirit.

Henry was born in North Carolina, grew up in Michigan, spent the early part of his music career in New York City, and finally settled in Los Angeles in 1990 with his wife and son. After his little-heard 1986 debut, Talk of Heaven, Henry debuted on A&M in 1989 with the rock & roll album Murder of Crows, which was produced by Anton Fier and featured Mick Taylor on guitar.

From there he pared down to the quiet, entirely acoustic moods of Shuffletown (1990) before shifting into the country- and folk-influenced territory of Short Man’s Room and Kindness of the World. The latter two albums earned him an excellent reputation among fans of alternative rock and country as a superb singer and songwriter. He followed Kindness with the five-song EP Fireman’s Wedding a year later.

Henry’s lyrics are a central focus of his songwriting, but even though he often writes in the first person, his songs are not “personal” in the manner of musicians who are often called singer/songwriters (a genre he doesn’t like to be associated with). He’s recorded some excellent country covers, but he’s equally interested in soul, funk, and rock & roll.

On Trampoline, released in 1996, Henry veered his music in an edgier, more rhythm-oriented direction. While he still employs acoustic instruments and even a pedal-steel guitar on several songs, Trampoline (much of which Henry recorded at a studio he set up in his garage) is more clearly defined by its drum loops, loud electric guitars, mysterious voices, and curious sonic textures. For this album Henry recruited guitarist Page Hamilton from the band Helmet and drummer Carla Azar from the band Edna Swap. Fuse — mixed with the aid of Daniel Lanois and T-Bone Burnett — followed in 1999.

Two years later, Henry returned with the enigmatic stunner Scar. This particular release marked his last with Mammoth. He opted for a deal with Epitaph’s Anti and entered the studio in December 2002 to record his ninth album, Tiny Voices, his most intricate to date. A second album on Anti, Civilians, followed in 2007. – Kurt Wolff

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