Sunday, May 20, 2007

Joe Henry (1996)

1996 was a year in which I received two excellent recommendations for albums by artists who would eventually make this list. The first of these came from Anders while watching him play a solo show at a bar in downtown Poughkeepsie. I believe it was called Brady's. The thing I know for sure is that we frequented this bar often while in town, and the guy behind the bar was almost always a younger Arlington alum whose name escapes me, though I recall his nickname was "Bird"...and he was not Brian McBrearty.

Speaking of McBrearty, I saw him a few years ago, for the first time in a long time, at Gary Griffiths' wedding. The story he was most anxious to recount from our past was when we played Big League baseball together. Brian had just hit what was probably the only home run in his baseball career. The opposing pitcher had to be extremely embarrassed because, while Brian was a pretty good pitcher, he had about as much bat speed as...well, he couldn't hit. his next at bat, he got knocked down as the opposing pitcher attempted to regain what was left of his pride. Apparently, according to Brian, I was coaching first base and went off like a time bomb, yelling at the pitcher or the umpire...or maybe both, as I wasn't the model of composure back then. Brian seemed to always remember that I "had his back", not that it would've meant all that much.

So, back to that night at Brady's. Between sets, Anders recommended that I check out Joe Henry's Trampoline. I followed up on this recommendation, and it would become my #1 album in the inaugural year of my top 10 list. Most every track was at least a birdie in my book, and the closing track "Parade" was definitely an eagle, to reference Len's favorite method of evaluating songs. Those of you who play or know golf can probably figure it out, but I'll get to an explanation of the system later. I still consider Trampoline to be Henry's best, though some are partial to the two strong alt-country albums he had released in the early 90's with the help of The Jayhawks' Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, Short Man's Room and Kindness of the World.

The magic of Joe Henry would peter out shortly thereafter. His next two albums, Fuse and Scar, were pretty good, but far from great, in my estimation, and the only time I saw him live, at the House of Blues in Harvard Square, wasn't very memorable. Madonna's brother-in-law makes this list, however, on the strength of Trampoline being my first ever official album of the year, though Son Volt's Trace would unofficially achieve that notoriety for 1995, and for the pleasure I would derive from exploring his back catalog.

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