Songwriter Joe Henry has recorded five albums in the 21st century; he’s also become a Grammy-winning producer. These more recent records (of 12) offer a mature view of an artist at his most musically ambitious and lyrically cagey. Reverie, as its title implies, contains 14 songs that seemingly center on the concept of time: the random glinting of memory as it perceives love, loss, spirituality, history, and culture refracted through the gaze of the human heart. Musically, it feels like the loosest album Henry’s ever recorded; its production techniques are organic, live sessions were cut in his home studio with the windows open, allowing the sounds of everyday life–barking dogs, mothers calling children, cars and trucks– to pour through, making them part and parcel of the album's fabric. Henry's lyrics and melodies do, however, contrarily reveal an exacting craftsman. He and his guitar are accompanied by longtime associates, drummer Jay Bellerose, pianist Keefus Ciancia, and bassist David Piltch, with cameos by Patrick Warren, Marc Ribot, Jean McLain, and Lisa Hannigan. His lyrics – scattershot, mercurial expressions of memory – are caught in exacting rhymes that reflect on the power, delight, and torment of desire (he admits as much at the end of his liner essay). The musical forms are more rhythmically inventive and slippery; they serve his ephemeral, evocative lyrics by opening them up to time’s uncageable nature.
In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station looking to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the music it inspired. Winding along 2,728 miles of track over four days, the pair recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at trackside while the train paused to pick up passengers.
While heavily influenced by Art Tatum, this performer was hardly considered a heavyweight pianist during his career. Born Louis F. Bush, or Busch depending on the source, the keyboard maestro who would also make heavy use of the stage name of Joe "Fingers" Carr managed to make it into Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz, but with the following disclaimer: "A novelty performer rather than a jazz artist." The novelty itself was a kind of heavily sexed-up ragtime piano style that caught on in the very dawn of the hi-fi era. The invention was in sharp contrast to lounge music and would most likely have the opposite effect than a seduction if played in a bachelor pad. Carr began driving his piano this way while working as an A&R man for Capitol. In a brainstorm based on a sharp analysis of current trends, he decided to sign himself up as the mysterious "Fingers."
Lou Busch was a major arranger/conductor who created an alter ego for himself in the guise of Joe 'Fingers' Carr, the ragtime and honky-tonk pianist. Lou Busch, who played piano with Hal Kemp in the '30s, re-emerged in the '50s and '60s as a ragtime revivalist. These 1960 and 1961 LPs (the latter with Ira Ironstrings) capture his finest finger work as you hear six sweet medleys plus Too Fat Polka; Stumbling, and more!