God Save Luke Henley (and Daniel Bailey)
Equal parts Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, and Gordon Gano, with maybe a shot of Leonard Cohen and garnished with a sprig of Neutral Milk Hotel, Luke Henley is a Tucson, Arizona, based singer/songwriter that I discovered totally randomly a few years ago via the website Song Fight. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t have an album, a label, or a decent microphone, but he writes some pretty amazing songs and performs with wrist-slitting vulnerability. I thought no one else had ever heard of him; hell, I’m not sure I’ve technically heard of him. But then I came across this, while reading another potential “God Save...” nominee, Daniel Bailey’s The Drunk Sonnets:
LISTENING TO LUKE HENLEY
IS POSSIBLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING EVER
LUKE’S SONGS ARE HONEST IN THE WAY
THAT A BULLET IS HONEST WHEN IT GRAZES YOUR TEMPLE
AND YOU ARE OK BUT BLEEDING A LITTLE
YOUR TEMPLE WILL SCAB AND BLOOD WILL STAY IN YOU
BUT YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO SHOT YOU
BUT YOU HAVE A GOOD IDEA
AND YOU JUST WANT SOMEONE THERE
AND NO ONE IS THERE
AND LUKE’S GUITAR IS YOUR FAVORITE DRUNK SCAR
I LIKE LOOKING AT MY SCARS AND FEELING THEM
I CAN NEVER FEEL MY SCARS BUT I FEEL THEM ANYWAY
I WANT AN EARTHQUAKE TO DAMAGE THIS PLANET TONIGHT
That seems like a pretty fair description, caps lock and all.
Go listen to lots of Luke Henley songs at the Song Fight archive, where I especially recommend “Courage,” the short but sweet “Welcome to _____,” and the long and bitter “Ran Away to Paris.” I also recommend 1) starting from the bottom of the page, since the arrangement is chronological and the overall quality does go up, and 2) bearing in mind that, per the Song Fight rules, all of these songs were written and recorded in one week a piece starting from the titles.
Then go to Henley's Myspace page with his current band, the Works of Mercy, where you can hear newer songs. Judging by some of these songs I guess he’s a little happier and maybe in love and has a pretty good mic now, so... that’s cool I guess.
“Small and Grey” is an amazing song that used to be on the internet somewhere, where I got it, but isn’t there anymore as far as I can tell. Now it’s here.
Get a fuller explanation of The Drunk Sonnets here. Read more of them at this excellent blog, then go buy the book from Magic Helicopter Press.
God save Luke Henley. (Also Daniel Bailey.)
“God Save…” is a feature highlighting things that are just too good for this shitty world, in the hopes that maybe if I ask nicely God will keep letting that slide.