free joe

joe henry.

joe henry.

The cost of a road-trip to Louisville will be your only expense for what may well be one of the regional concert highlights of the fall.

Tonight at the ultra intimate 930 Art Center is a very rare concert evening with Joe Henry, Americana stylist-turned avant-pop journeymen who doubles as one of today’s most scholarly and insightful (and in-demand) record producers.

We first got a look at Henry the performer in the mid ‘90s when he visited Lexington and Louisville as an opening act for bands like Son Volt. He was already starting to shed the Jayhawks-style alt-country leanings that underscored albums like 1992’s Kindness of the World and the exceptional 1994 covers EP Fireman’s Wedding. With turn-of-the-decade albums like Fuse (1999) and Scar (2001) – both essential recordings in the Henry catalogue – the stylistic contours of his music began to warp. Henry’s last three albums – 2003’s Tiny Voices, 2007’s Civilians and the new Blood from Stars take on almost Tom Waits-like abstractions that balance carnival-like playfulness and dark, noir-style pop accents.

On Blood from Stars, which will likely be the focus of tonight’s free show in Louisville (part of the 930’s opening of an exhibition of works by Cincinnati photographer Michael Wilson titled Whatever Happened to Martha?), such stylistic corrosion is detailed by way of the wiry guitars, stark percussion, jazzy dissonance and vocal animation that enhance songs like Death to the Storm, Suit on a Frame and The Man I Keep Hid. But the deconstructed orchestration of This is My Favorite Cage may better reflect the solo acoustic setting Henry will perform in tonight.

Of course, Henry has made just as much music with other artists as he had on his own over the past eight or so years. A devotee of vintage soul, he has produced recordings for Allen Toussaint (including this year’s extraordinary The Bright Mississippi), Solomon Burke (the Grammy-winning Don’t Give Up on Me) and Bettye LaVette (her comeback recording I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise). He has also produced more pop and folk directed works for Loudon Wainwright III, Ani DiFranco, Teddy Thompson and Aimee Mann.

On his website, Henry recently divulged two 82 year old icons he is currently producing albums for: jazz-blues vocalist/pianist Mose Allison and calypso great Harry Belafonte.

No tickets are required for tonight’s Louisville performance. Seating is general admission. The Wilson exhibit begins at 7 p.m.

Joe Henry performs at 9 tonight at the 930 Art Center, 930 Mary St. in Louisville. Admission is free. Call (502) 635-2554.

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