Emerging in the late 1980’s, Joe Henry quickly established himself as one of the most thoughtful voices in Alt. Country. Working with T-Bone Burnett and members of the Jayhawks, his early albums like ‘Shuffletown’ set the stage for the sounds of indie-Americana that would bloom over the next decade.
In 2006, Henry and his family moved into the historic Garfield House in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The basement was converted into a studio and work on 2007’s ‘Civilians’ album began. After dabbling in Lanois produced soundscapes and collaborating with Madonna, ‘Civilians’ was a return to the roots driven sounds of his earlier work. ‘Time is a Lion’ is one of the standout tracks from the record.
The video was shot at the house in the basement studio, the stone lined walls can be seen behind the hazy California sunlight washing through the windows. Surrounded by his band, Bill Frissell, Jay Bellarose, Patrick Warren, Greg Leisz and David Piltch, Henry sings this lament into a vintage microphone.
“And death in disgrace can seduce anyone // That needs to believe there’s judgment at hand // Or God may be kind and see you like a son
But time is a lion when you are a lamb.”
The lyrics are a warning that time slips by and life is short. But in the end he comforts his lover that he will provide protection.
As a songwriter Henry’s influences are clearly more from the folk tradition of Greenwich Village than the rural, Southern sounds typical of many Americana artists.
The stand-up bass and drums swing with hints of 30’s jazz but in the end provide a solid backdrop for the story in the lyrics. This video evokes much of the nostalgia of his sound without delving into some sort of retro parody. A fine visual compliment to the sound of the record.
This is a subtle tour de force from a master storyteller.