NPR : World Cafe

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Joe Henry On World Cafe

Since his 1986 studio debut Talk of Heaven, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and producer Joe Henry has defied convention. Known best for his country-inspired work, Henry reinvigorates each new release by injecting hints of soul, blues, jazz and funk. He's produced albums by Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, and House star Hugh Laurie.

Henry's latest album, Reverie, ventures even deeper into new musical territory. He recorded and produced the album in his South Pasadena basement studio, aiming to forge a "raw, raucous and messy" sound. He left his windows open — with microphones attached — to capture the sounds of passing traffic and shouting neighbors. With a backing band that included T-Bone Burnett's drummer Jay Bellerose, Tom Waits' guitarist Mark Ribot, pianist Keefus Ciancia, and guest vocalist Lisa Hannigan, Henry granted his players free license to let the music come as they felt it should. The result is a stripped-bare blend of blues and folk, its sonic naturalism starkly contrasted with Henry's nuanced musicianship.

Today's session of World Cafe showcases Henry without the street noise — he performs a solo set of four songs from Reverie with just his voice and acoustic guitar.

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