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Archive for the ‘Joe Henry’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-The Dark (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the second release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The Dark is described as

This EP is a collection of remixes and covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, from the 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.” It is not ironic. “Dancing in the Dark” is © Bruce Springsteen and Columbia.

And that is literally what this is. Five tracks that rethink “Dancing in the Dark” each one called “Dancing in the Dark.”

Track 1 opens with someone doing a kind of Elvis impersonation (or is it actually Bruce?) of the first line of the song: I get up in the evening…”  It then gets echoed and looped on itself until it is inaudible.  After a minute a guitar comes in strumming music backwards, I believe.  The big takeaway is the rolling “I” repeated over and over.  After 1:30 there’s a rather pretty sax solo. which may be from the song, I don’t know it that well.

Track 2 is an ambient piece with electronic claps and a kind of slow almost pixelated pipe organ version of the main melody of the song.  There’s some of those 80s processed “ahhhhs” added to the end.  It would eerily make you think of the song without knowing exactly why.

Track 3 is a noisy track.  Electronic drums played very rapidly and then some glitchy guitars playing the melody in triple time.  It is the least recognizable of the five pieces.

Track 4 is a fingers-on-chalkboard electronic screech with what I assume is the song played in reverse.  It’s a tough minute before the noise clicks away and we’re left with the backwards vocals.  If you didn’t know it was “Dancer in the Dark” you might not recognize the melody but if you do, you can kind of hear it.

Track 5 plays the original song in the middle ear. But in the left ear is another song (as if the radio was staticky and in the right ear is another even louder song.  But Bruce is squarely in the middle.  It’s pretty disconcerting.  Ultimately, the left ear gives way to people talking and the right ear reveals itself to be “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”  It fades and for about ten seconds during which you can hear pretty much only the Bruce song, but then it all falls apart into glitchy noise.

The longest track is 2:15; the rest are about 2 minutes.  No one will say this disc is enjoyable, but it is kind of ugly fun.

[READ: January 30, 2017] Liō ‘s Astonishing Tales from the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors

I have observed before about the maddening publication life of Liō books.  It’s going on four years since a new collection has been published.

But at the same time there are a number of books that cover the same territory.  Like this one.

This book collects “Liō” (which I take to mean Happiness is a Warm Cephalopod) and Silent But Deadly.  But what puts this book head and shoulders above the others (and just about any other collection of any series) is that it is almost completely annotated.

I didn’t compare the two books to see if all of the strips were indeed included.  But I’ll assume that claim is true.

Tatulli doesn’t comment on every strip but he does on a lot of them.  Like the very first one (in which he criticizes his–admittedly horrible-looking–spider.

He has at least three comments about what a genius Charles Schulz was.  Including the first time he tried to draw Lucy and Charlie: “I wanted to use the retro 1950s Peanuts look, but it was a bitch to reproduce…Schulz just make it look so simple.”

He’s also very critical of his drawing style of Mary Worth: “I won’t even tell you how embarrassingly long it took to make this lousy copy.” (more…)

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TNY 11.24.08 cvr.fnl.indd SOUNDTRACK: BILLY BRAGG & JOE HENRY-Tiny Desk Concert #572 (October 17, 2016).

bragg-henryI don’t really know who Joe Henry is (although I see that he has released 13 albums).  I’ve heard his name mentioned a bunch of times, but I can’t really place him to any specific music.  Billy Bragg, on the other hand, I know very well.

The two recorded an album this year.  And the NPR blurb is pretty interesting:

Earlier this year, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry set off on a journey. They boarded a train in Chicago, bound for Los Angeles. Each time the train stopped for more than 20 minutes in cities like St. Louis and San Antonio, they’d grab their guitars, hop off, find the waiting room and record an old railroad song. The result of this journey is an album called Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad.

Their voices sound very different and as a result they play off each other very well.

The duo used Lead Belly as a jumping off point for much of this music.  Bragg explains that the jumping off point for this music is a book he has been working on about when British pop music went from being jazz influenced to being guitar led.  In 1956 Lonnie Donegan became the first Briton to get into the charts playing the  Lead Belly song “Rock Island Line.”

On the second song “Hobo’s Lullaby” Henry explains, the railroad is a mythic poverty–railroads conjure a romance in all of us even if we’ve never ridden a passenger train.  As they start, Bragg hasn’t re-tuned his guitar.  He says it’s always him who messes up.  But he usually plays solo, so “If I put something in the wrong key I just sing it in that key and hope no one notices–fortunately my audience… no one comes to hear me sing.”

As they are about to start, he says, “Sorry mate it was a beautiful intro.”  Henry looks at him and says, “It was,” to much laughter.

Before the final song, Henry says he was listening to Lead Belly since he was 15.  “Midnight Special” was a train that ran past Sugarland Prison in Texas.  The story was if the train’s light shined on you as it swept across the yard, that you would be the next to get paroled.

Even though these songs are old,

This concept record could be seen as a nostalgia trip, but both Bragg and Henry will emphatically say that it’s not. These songs and this journey celebrate the modern railroad as a major economic engine and a still-vital form of transportation.

[READ: March 10, 2016] “Ghosts”

Danticat often writes about Haiti and the troubles that arise there.

This story is set in Bel Air–the Baghdad of Haiti. Children in the neighborhood enter art contests by drawing posters that say “It’s not polite to shoot at funeral processions.”

The protagonist is Pascal Dorien.  He is a good kid who tries to stay out of trouble.  His parents own a small restaurant which has the unfortunate location of being in the heart of gangland (his family lives in a nearby town which is a little safer).  Luckily for them (sort of) the gangsters who make the restaurant their evening hangout are kind to the family and think of their place as their haven.

The family originally sold pigeons (both live and as meat) but then the gangsters started buying them to use in a ritual which involved drinking the pigeons’ blood mixed with evaporated milk.  His parents hated this and eventually stopped selling the bird.   Nevertheless the money they made for this ritual allowed them to expand and make even more money.  Which they hoped would allow their children to flee Haiti for safer locations. (more…)

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lio1 SOUNDTRACK: JOE HENRY-Tiny Desk Concert #176 (November 21, 2011).

joe henryI had never heard of Joe Henry, so imagine my surprise to find out that he was releasing his 12th album in 2011.  For this Tiny Desk, it’s just him at a stool playing his guitar.  He has a very easy vibe, telling stories between songs and playing them with very little fuss.

He opens the show by saying this is, “not exactly like Woody Guthrie playing for the union members but you are working people.”

He plays four songs, “Sticks and Stones,” After the War,” “Odetta” and “Piano Furnace.”

Between the first two songs, he says he first became aware of Tiny Desk Concerts when his friend Vic Chesnutt was on the show (amusingly, he was the second person on the show).  He says he has a song on his new record about Chesnutt (Chesnutt had recently died).  He doesn’t play it though.  At first it seems like he might not be allowed to play it, but then it seems like maybe he just doesn’t get to it.

Rather he plays “After the War” where his guitar sounds like it has an incredible echo on it.  That echo is also present on the third song.  After which Bob asks him about his guitar.

Joe says he’s had the guitar for 6 years.  But the guitar dates back to 1932.  He says that he heard things differently with this guitar.  It’s got a smaller body and was actually sold as a budget guitar by Gibson (for $19 in 1932).  He also jokes that it’s black and looks a bit like a World Wrestling Federation belt.

Then someone asks him about Sam Phillips.  Joe says he sold her husband a guitar about 20 years ago.  She and her husband have split and Sam got the guitar and has been playing only that guitar for the last 20 years.  He says that he loves that she doesn’t plug in her guitar.  She plays into a microphone where you can hear the whole guitar and which makes the other players lean in to hear her.

I love the chords he plays in the final song, “Piano Furnace,” even if I don’t know what the song is about.  Henry’s voice is familiar.  I think he sounds a bit like a number of different singers.  And overall, nothing really stands out in his performance, except that everything sounds great and hiss songwriting is really solid.  That’s not a bad thing.

[READ: December 20, 2015] Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod

Mark Tatulli is the author of the Desmond books.  I liked the stories, but I didn’t love the drawing style so much.  Imagine my surprise to find out that Tatulli has been drawing comics featuring this little boy Liō since 2006 (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

And even more surprising is that I like the drawing style in the comic quite a bit–it is slightly refined over the Desmond books and is all the better for it.

I am also really surprised to find out that this strip appeared in newspapers across the country.  I’ve certainly never heard of it (but then I don’t read newspapers anymore, either).

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos. (more…)

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