Joe Henry set the needle down on a vinyl copy of his new Anti-Records release "Reverie," inviting guests to his home studio in South Pasadena, Calif., to "feel free to talk while the music plays -- provided you talk about me or it." Silence, appreciative applause and hurrahs from the legendary Van Dyke Parks were the only response Henry received from his 30 or so guests Thursday evening, as he shared stories about writing for Harry Belafonte and in tribute of the late Vic Chesnutt, his North Carolina accent enhancing the warmth of the album.
The studio Henry presented the album, due Oct. 11, in the studio he has been used for four of his 12 solo albums and was where he has recorded Solomon Burke, Mose Allison, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and other legends. This time out, he opted to work acoustically with the bassist Dennis Piltch, drummer Jay Bellerose and pianist Keefus Cianica, leaving the windows in the room open to capture the sounds of traffic, dogs barking and other ambient sounds.
"Not everyone wants to hear that on their records," Henry told Billboard.biz, stepping out onto his back patio to resume wine drinking and some noshing. After the playback finished, he told a story of recording with Glen Hansard on a day the city decided to trim trees on his block and park a wood chipper across the street from his three-story home. Being a producer in a residential neighborhood also requires being a negotiator as well, Henry has learned.
The house had guests marveling at the quaint nature of South Pasadena, which seemed to be out of the jurisdiction of the Anti- and Epitaph Records staff such as licensing chief Hector Martinez and marketing head Tom Osborn who attended along with the likes of ADA's Mark Silverman and Music Monitor's Michael Kurtz.
The rustic studio -- exposed rock, polished dark wood, Persian rugs and plenty of loveseats -- was a perfect setting to hear the sparse material -- "Sticks and Stones," "Odetta" and "Tomorrow is October" stood out on first listen -- played on a vintage Pioneer turntable and MacIntosh amplifier through more recent Yamaha bookshelf speakers. No CDs were displayed, only vinyl albums with a copy of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream" sitting at the front of the rack beside the turntable.
Henry is scheduled to perform "Reverie" in its entirety on its release date at the Largo at the Coronet Theatre in West Hollywood, Calif.