Lisa Hannigan, Joe Henry
128 Northeast Russell Street
Portland, OR, 97212
Doors 8:00PM / Show 9:00PM
This event is 21 and over
Watch & Listen
"Hello, I am a singer. I often hum away without realising it until I get funny looks on camden street. I'm good at roasting potatoes and sewing on buttons, but not good at voice mails and competitive sports. I get a little rush of excitement when i pass through airport security without beeping. I only recently realised that pipe cleaners are used for cleaning pipes and not making lopsided farm animals out of. I love a good festival, and would happily live at the electric picnic if Bren Berry would let me (and keep the pie shop open). I am very bad at all things computer related so my best friend Una is keeping the keys to this site. We'll be putting up bits and bobs over the next few months, some live songs and demos. I'm in the middle of making my first record and I want it to come out as soon as possible so I can sing in venues more socially acceptable than superquinn and the luas station." - Lisa Hannigan
Civilians is Joe Henry's tenth album to date and his second for Anti Records. It's a wry, reflective, and sometimes devastating collection of stories.
"The songs have the right amount of smoke, the right number of mirrors and the right kind of clarity," Henry says. "And I'm not sure that, with all of the records that I've made, I've ever felt that way before now."
In addition to winning a Grammy for producing Solomon Burke's "Don't Give Up On Me," Henry has produced acclaimed efforts for Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, Bettye LaVette, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, and the upcoming Mary Gauthier album. He also worked with longtime hero Loudon Wainwright III on the soundtrack to this summer's smash hit Knocked Up.
Henry brings all of these diverse influences to the self-produced Civilians, which was recorded and mixed in his home studio. His impressive array of collaborators include jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist and chamberlain organist Patrick Warren, guitarist and dobro master Greg Leisz, bassist Dave Piltch and longtime drummer Jay Bellerose.
"I wanted these songs to operate in a way that was clearer," Henry explains, comparing them to his 2003 effort Tiny Voices. "I set a goal to be sonically, lyrically and vocally lucid. My last record was intentionally chaotic, like a Bunuel film shown on the side of a building during a rainstorm. I knew it wasn't for everybody. But when I started writing for Civilians, I was very conscious of wanting to strip things back. I wanted to hear more air in the room. And I picked musicians accordingly."
Whereas Tiny Voices was described as "the sound of Hemingway contemplating the Cuban Revolution with William Gaddis," by AllMusic.com, Civilians is less obtuse, more immediately satisfying. The driving, undeniable title track is as catchy and memorable as anything Henry has recorded, stomping into the listener's living room and announcing: Pray for you, pray for me. Sing it like a song. Life is short but by the grace of God the night is long.
The poignant, elegiac "Civil War" ventures into the personal: I don't know you to wear a hat. But I came home late, and there it sat. You rose to show what hats are for. We're living through a civil war. Meanwhile, the blues-inflected "Time Is A Lion" -- perhaps the album's strongest track – is an anthem to existential fears: Time is a lion, and you are a lamb.
"Our Song"'s main character bumps into baseball icon Willie Mays at a Scottsdale, Arizona Home Depot. Henry calls it the album's centerpiece. "It's no accident that the song falls where it does, in the middle of the record," he says. "It's sort of the hub of the wheel. Once I'd written it, it influenced how I heard everything else."
While Henry admits that "Our Song" and "Civil War" are ripe with political undertones, "I've never sat down with the idea of writing a 'political record' or even a political song, for that matter," he says. "The process of writing for me has always been the process of discovering what I'm writing about. I never really know where I'll wind up. And in this case, I see in retrospect that the times in which we live have somewhat subverted the process."
The Los Angeles resident's heralded back catalog includes 1992's Short Man's Room, 1993's Kindness of the World, 1996's Trampoline, '99's Fuse and 2002's Scar. Blender gave his Anti- debut Tiny Voices four stars upon its 2003 release, while the Los Angeles Times called him "a literate, thoughtful writer who crafts stories of lonesome losers and people scarred by the past and scared about the future."
Henry recently worked with Richie Havens, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, John Doe and Bob Forrest on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan-inspired Todd Haynes film, I'm Not There: Suppositions On A Film Concerning Dylan. "Working with other artists has given me an incredible freedom, so that when I come back to do work for myself I plug into the music in a different way," says Henry. "Perhaps because the whole of my artistry doesn't rest with my records alone, I am fearless, in a way. There's less to lose and yet, somehow, much more to gain."
Following the artistic model that has served him well his entire career, he started from scratch with Civilians. His only aim was "to make a better record, a different record than I've made before.
"I don't think I've ever made a record where I felt less concerned by what anyone might think of it – be it my label, my manager, my wife, or whomever," he goes on. "I felt completely liberated, and I think that the fact that I've been producing so many records for others has gotten me to the place where I've learned to work with an aerial view; and it's a relief whenever I can hear a song outside the clutter of my own vanity. I find that's a place of strength rather than of resignation.
"I feel like I'm moving forward with Civilians," Henry concludes. "I wouldn't say that it came together effortlessly, but this record certainly feels as if it happened the way it was supposed to."
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