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JOEL HENRY LITTLE
(2019 - MicroCultures - France / Life is a Minestrone Records - USA)
A select colorful visionary masterpiece with a batch of languid, pastoral folk ballad, devout storytelling, in an expressive antique atmosphere. With acoustic guitar, gentle horns, quick changes to happy tunes, altered among melancholy, yet elegant and charming to the point of royal courtyard concert prestige, this is pure gold. Especially intimate pieces, the music has such a sentimental theatrical essence, it leaves you feeling in a state of calm. The third link I have above to You Tube, will show you the raw talent of Joel Henry Little, and how he can perform with just a classical guitar, his voice, and a bit of whistling. And that there is no electronic wizardry on his voice in a studio. It's all pure delight. But you can expect wonderful amounts of additional instrumentation on the album.
The title 'Spuyten Duyvil' is reference to an early Dutch settlement in the 17th century, thereabouts, in what now is considered the Northwest Bronx. Although various translations exist, 'Spouting Devil' is the most common, which is speaking about the brute currents of the river there. There is plenty more history but that, and the cover painting, that I understand J. H. Little painted, from a picture courtesy of NYPL: 'The old landmarks of N.Y. Spuyten Duyvel Creek', shows the feel of the music quite well. It has a dual early music endearment, early baroque, and early 1900's, which is postmarked by Little's voice. His vocals match what you might be listening to on an old Victrola, except his voice is pure and ripe with clarity, as is the instrumentation. The nylon strings, the vintage styling, and the package as a whole is unique. Not only for the sheer beauty of both Joel Henry Little's voice, but the magic he has composed, the mature writing, arranging, and elements of romantic poetic lyrics he created.
I asked him who his influences were and how he came up with the sound, and replied "my favorite artists are Joanna Newsom, Josephine Foster, Richard Dawson, Dirty Projectors, and Stephen Sondheim. Stylistically, I don't know what to tell you, I just do what sounds good to me." He is only 21, and already has two wonderful albums released. His debut was also on the MicroCultures label in France, 'Great Kills Friendship Club' (2017) is also has his daydream like quality of music.
The dimensions of the music glide from bits of relics from varied decades, and old ballad and show tunes, in an almost sacred way, gently bringing back the past. With an evenness from period pieces, to near Minstrels (the Middle Ages kind), some multiple harmony vocals are brought in at times. 'Honor Thyself' (track 9) has a choir effect that gives both high and low range voice. Magnificent! Joel Henry Little composed, arranged, and performed the entire album, with one guest on 'See/Saw' (his mother, Amy Dulsky Little - violin).
However anyone would describe 'Spuyten Duyvil' , the music will transfix you, take you back to a simpler time, before television, like a visit to the carnival when innocence was real, a stroll in the countryside when the air was still fresh and clean, and a mind full of wonderful memories where hope was a part of so many lives. A TOP CHOICE for 2019. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 5 - 11 - 2019
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