Singer-songwriter Emory Joseph debuted with the album Labor & Spirits in 2003. The effort clearly marked him as a soulful, American-music cross-pollinator in the tradition of such predecessors as Lowell George, Ry Cooder, Delbert McClinton and Dr. John. The album was also notable for the wealth of talent brought into the studio, including Levon Helm (The Band), Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and T-Bone Wolk (Elvis Costello, Hall & Oates).
The Northern California musician was born and raised in St. Louis, where he first drew influence from the racially diverse sounds his AM station piped into his transistor radio when he was a kid. (His father had left the family early on.) Later, life would find him doing everything from shoeing horses to working in restaurants to living on a boat to playing stay-at-home dad. It wasn't until he had moved past his 30s that Joseph, a lifelong musician, decided to commit his muse to CD. The relationships he had fostered over the years in various locales as a struggling musician were crucial in gathering together the talent on Labor & Spirits.