After years of recording for a variety of labels, Richie Havens returned to his own imprint with 2004's GRACE OF THE SUN. (He originally created this company over 30 years earlier to release not just his own music, but that of talented folk-rock unknowns such as Bob Brown and Montreal.) Happily, Havens shies away from outsized production techniques, utilizing a small-scale, acoustic-oriented approach strongly flavored by World Music (bouzouki, shakuhachi, Turkish violin, and tabla all play a part).
While Havens is best known as an imaginative interpreter of other people's material, he penned the majority of the songs here, and they stand up quite well. That's no small feat when you consider that the songwriters he chooses to cover include Bob Dylan (a polyrhythmic "All Along the Watchtower"), Fred Neil (a moody take on the obscure "Red Flowers"), and Joni Mitchell (a "Woodstock" closer to Mitchell's own version than to CSNY's popular recording). As ever, Havens's trademark percussive acoustic guitar work provides much of the rhythmic propulsion, and his rich, soulful voice tells the tales with energy and authority.