Not so far from home: Joel Henderson takes root in Louisville

Apr 18, 2006 at 6:47 pm

When Joel Henderson says he’s new to the Louisville music scene, he doesn’t mean he just moved here, or that he just started playing music.

“I’ve actually been here a couple of years. But when I moved down here initially, I sort of put the music stuff on hold. So musically speaking, I am new to town, but I have been living in town a couple years,” he explained.

Henderson hails from Chicago but began his career as a singer-songwriter in Indianapolis. He moved to Louisville a few years ago because he “met a girl.” In this equation, it looks like everyone wins. Henderson is engaged to be married in a few weeks to the same girl who drew him to Louisville, and the city’s music scene gained a talented singer-songwriter in the deal.

Henderson recently re-released 2003’s High Risk EP, a collection of six brilliantly executed songs in the singer-songwriter tradition, which tap the best elements of folk, country and indie pop. His haunting voice only makes his emotionally universal yet clearly personal lyrics all the more poignant. The record has been impossible to find for a while, which is why Henderson felt it necessary to re-issue.

“It had sold out so long ago that I had just decided, ‘Hey, you know what, I better just release it again.’ Like a fresh start, because when I first released it, it was really just a homemade thing. People really liked it, but I never really had it properly manufactured for one, so in a sense this is really its first honest-to-goodness release.”

Henderson is starting to perform often around Louisville, and he’s at Uncle Pleasant’s tonight. He’ll do songs from the High Risk EP with some new “more rocking” and “more jazz-based” material. Much of this new music is likely to appear on the new record Henderson is working on with the help of several local friends.

“Yeah, I’ve got the material and I’m starting to record it, but long story short, it’s a long process that takes a lot of resources, those resources being money,” he joked.

Appearing with Henderson tonight are local singer-songwriter Jamie Barnes and headliner Mark Geary, who got his musical start playing with Jeff Buckley but who has been performing on his own for several years and is working to make a name for himself.

Geary’s newest record, 2005’s Ghosts, has been compared to Buckley, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake and David Gray’s best work. One listen not only confirms these similarities, but also makes it clear that Geary and Henderson are well matched.

Catch Barnes, Geary and Henderson all at Uncle Pleasant’s tonight, and be on the lookout for future performances by Henderson. Despite his migratory past, he plans to be performing around the city for a while.
“I love Louisville. I would definitely say that I have every intention of placing roots here.”

Female music-lovers have it kind of rough. No matter the genre, male artists seem to dominate the music industry on both the popular and the independent ends of the spectrum. And among the few female artists out there, many of them, especially in the world of popular music, leave much to be desired in terms of talent and role-model status. Thankfully, several female-fronted bands in the tri-state area have been working to change this by coming together lately to play “Ladies’ Night” shows exclusively featuring performances by all-female and female-fronted bands.

Since its beginning in the American Northwest in the early 1990s, music critics have been debating about whether the riot grrrl movement has died, but these local Ladies’ Night shows are evidence that, at the very least, the spirit that inspired the movement is still alive and well. Louisville’s own Scaramouch, Years Ahead and Alpha Betty will be joined by Bloomington ska-punk band Coinslot at the Bulldog Café this Sunday for a night of high-energy punk, ska and hardcore, plus a whole lot of female empowerment. Many of the bands have male members as well, so interested guys have nothing to worry about — boys are welcome.

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