“. . . They call them time hunters; because where there is time – there is time to kill”. The hauntingly pseudo virgin innocent frailties of Joey Henry’s tender voice creeps into the track like a long lost friend – his banjo slung nonchalantly at his side. There is something deeply healing about Joey and his tender approach to his craft; whether it is the deliberate picking of his banjo, his tremendously pinpoint accurate vocal range or the novel use of a no longer functioning cellphone to record his music. With all of these factors considered Joey delivers each time with a visceral reactionary tone song after song which echoes in your soul, calling out to the hurt and pain inside to be freed and the scars of the past to be healed from within. Welcome Joey Henry.
Joey is no stranger to hurt, the opening track of “I Fuck Up A Lot” being Time Hunters appears almost a hesitantly remorseful song extending into a dark void, like a hand reaching out and up for assistance. In this song Joey exposes himself at a contemplative level and where consequence is irrelevant yet the goal is ever present. The only consistent element seems to be a semi – deliberate waiting game which is a standoff of sorts – sadly with no winner in sight. The track concludes with the definitive “click” of a basic recording device; the abrupt and final close to beautiful marriage of song and melody. The inanimate “click” enough to say I’m done – I can’t go on. . .
The track “Lost your way” is the next in the sequence of tracks on this spectacularly simple album, the song details people who think they know you when in reality they really don’t. The song begins with the tonal familiarity and uneasiness of Joey’s picking gaining in speed and urgency, the chords blending together under his steady fingers and the pace quickening faster and faster. A brief reprieve and a sullen yodel and cadenced “yip” from our storyteller friend fills the empty spaces between musical bars. To visualize him standing before you, his eyes closed and yet ahead with determined strength matching the bleating banjo chords, his voice growing more and more agitated with each passing word. The vocals building to a satisfying urgent crescendo, a brief plateau and then a complimentary denouement and accompanying yodel to conclude in assurance – “. . .you will try to know my name; you will try and try in vain, you will never know my pain.”
Calamity CubesJoey is not without irreverence and an albeit somewhat tempered solemn lighthearted nature. The song “Sex and Cookies” is a poignant expose segment of his songwriting talents which offers thanks in the face of uncertainty. In a cautionary note Joey encourages the appreciation of the “little things” in our lives and how this celebration often gives the allusion of having a real home away from the road. As the song continues deeper and deeper the listener is guided by Joey’s steady hand to be true to the cherished moments we share together as they themselves can be as fleeting and temporary as a chance romantic embrace or a delicious chocolate chip cookie.
As we continue through the Dirty Sunshine Club album with Joey as our tour guide our next stop is another familiar storyboard song of which is held particularly close to the heart. “Skeleton Key” is about harvesting, cherishing and honoring the connections we foster and nurture through our days and nights on this earth. The song is a deliberate push toward the reciprocated love between two souls, two souls who need one another simply for support and the understanding of the depth of that vein of support. With his banjo in hand Joey cold forges the songs malleable verses like a blacksmith against the bellows of his lungs. The distinctively painful artistic cries in song found in “Skeleton Key” are what define, cement and bond Joey Henry to his audience.
Joey Henry is the exemplary model of a true songwriter with the skill and finesse echoing a long forgotten day of Woody Guthrie mixed with the unpredictable nature of Jack Kerouac. His folksy long red natural beard a welcome sight to any weary traveler, like cozying up with a good book under a blanket after a long day, Joey is audible salvation in a world rife with confusion and chaos. His trademark “Low Card” trucker hat and familiar brown polyester pants matched only in style by a vintage patterned western shirt with pearl finish buttons – Joey sings softly and unapologetically, sharing his pain in hopes you may suffer less and celebrate more.