For musicians performing behind Bob Boilen's desk at the NPR Music offices, there's often an inverse relationship between professional accomplishment and the amount of time required to set up. For new bands still finding their way, pre-show preparation can be a numbing chore of positioning effects pedals and rehearsing song after song before the cameras start rolling. But for established veterans like Joe Henry — who, as a gifted producer, is no stranger to asking musicians to perform in seemingly unnatural settings — it's as simple as showing up nattily dressed, pulling out a guitar and knowing instinctively where to sit and what to do.
Henry just released the excellent Reverie, his 12th solo album, and it reflects that easygoing vibe perfectly. He'd even made a point, during the recording process, of leaving his windows open to capture the everyday sounds that surrounded him — the street-level noises that only added to Reverie's cool, conversational vibe. So asking Henry to sit in front of a crowded office and sing those songs never felt like much of an imposition. He fits in here, whether performing new songs or conversing amiably about his guitar or the late Vic Chesnutt, to the point where it was tempting to ask him to stick around and pull up a computer for the rest of the day. Surely, we could find something for him to do, right?
- "Sticks And Stones"
- "After The War"
- "Piano Furnace"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Michael Katzif/NPR