Monday, August 24, 2009

Joe Henry vs. Robert Johnson

THERE'S something genuinely -- and not just fashionably -- retro about joe henry, an artist who keeps us guessing about where he'll go next but stays deeply rooted in the american past.

i could have spent all day talking about music with henry -- about the portrait of billy strayhorn over his piano, for instance which he compares to the "what would jesus do" bracelets christian teens wear. but he probably would have kicked me out of his super-cool brick-and-stone basement studio.

my story, from today's LATimes, was mostly about his new album, "blood from stars." but we also discussed two of my favorite R&B records -- solomon burke's "don't give up on me" and bettye lavette's "i've got my own hell to raise" -- both of which joe produced.

we started out speaking about delta blues players like son house, robert johnson and skip james. "to me, it's like reading keats or blake," the singer/guitarist said. "it takes god, sex, love and death and puts them all in the same room."

UPDATE FOR 2010: Joe plays the Largo at the Coronet on Saturday, March 6; great reputation as a live artist.

Photo credit: Anti- Records

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