Back to Music

Seclusion and screen doors

Joseph Hein got away to create and album of warm folk-rock

Joseph Hein and his band deliver soul-tinged folk-rock with character. Photo credit: Allyson Yarrow Pierce

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

I would never imply, dear reader, that you've never seen the seminal documentary The Last Waltz. But, if you haven't, here are the nuts and bolts of what is rightly considered one of the greatest concert movies ever made: The Band take the stage at the Winterland Ballroom for their farewell concert. During that night of celebratory music, featuring appearances from a murderer's row of icons (including Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and many more, including Bob Dylan, who used to call The Band his band), there still exists a world-weary pall that hangs over what should be a joyous goodbye. The vibe of The Last Waltz strikes a balance between wistfulness, brief spurts of exuberance, and sheer exhaustion.

Director Martin Scorsese interviews each member of The Band in behind-the-scenes moments, with most of them reminiscing on the dissolution of the group with a mixture of sadness and relief (notably, drummer and frequent lead singer Levon Helm was apparently the only member who was against The Band breaking up, lending another note of melancholy to the film). Organist and musical guru Garth Hudson, in his standard hushed tones, recalls him and the boys recording music in a quiet house in upstate New York, near Woodstock, and what a breath of fresh air it was to make music in an environment where you could also hit your thumb with a hammer while trying to fix a screen door. It's an evocative description of what must have been a rare moment of calm for a band of constantly touring musicians.

I'm reminded of The Band, and of Hudson's description of that country house, when I listen to Following Fog, the most recent release from Pullman native Joseph Hein. The 2014 LP was released on vinyl after a successful Kickstarter campaign, which also helped Hein to create a studio in the Columbia Gorge. Hein recorded Following Fog over the course of a year-and-a-half in locations, as he says, ranging from a "barn to a church, a garage, cabin, closet, and the span of eastern to western Washington state." This sense of seclusion and wanderlust reads well on the album, pairing nicely with the soul-tinged folk-rock that Hein and his band created.

Some of the songs on Following Fog really reflect their origins in communal settings, particularly "Light Feet," a piano-led chugger that sounds as if a band just gathered around a singer microphone, all echoes and wide-open space. Most of the songs err on the shorter side, content with getting one offbeat idea out there as quickly as possible, in a way that is occasionally reminiscent of Paul McCartney's own rural retreat album of pop oddities, Ram, as on the woozy ditty, "Cease."

Hein's lead vocals are modestly forceful, frequently happy to retreat into the din of instruments while maintaining a smooth tenor. There's a general sense of professionalism running throughout the whole album, even as the production has a tossed-off feel to it - a playfulness and lack of concern about polish, reminiscent of the dearly departed Speedwobbles, who recorded a similar album of retro-leaning, quirky folk-rock several years ago.

Joseph Hein now, apparently, resides in Albion, a tiny town in eastern Washington, which Wikipedia informs me has a population of 579 as of 2010's census. Finding peace in tucked-away pockets is clearly something that means a lot to Hein, and who could blame him? If you're to believe Garth Hudson, it seems like that house near Woodstock was one of the last happy moments for The Band. Sometimes, to make something as warm and textured as what Hein created, getting away becomes a necessity.

Joseph Hein, w/ Eye and the Arrow, Briana Marela, Friday, May 20, 9 p.m., $7, Obsidian, 414 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.890.4425

Read next close


Bill Colby: 'The sixties'

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search