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Joe Henry – [Album]

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sometimes you never know which way the wind will blow, or what those winds may bring your way. So when editor extraordinaire Bill Adams sent me a new album, unsolicited, for review with a note attached saying he thought I should check it out because it was my cup of tea, I felt like I owed him one.



Here is where fate dealt me a wonderful blow. Joe Henry, someone I had never heard of before, released a new album two weeks ago called Reverie. Anytime I listen to a new artist that I have no preconceptions about, I listen with as open a mind as I can, and I listen for elements in the music that hook me. The first thing I heard in “Heaven’s Escape” was piano, snare drum, and aching vocals that immediately remind me of Jeff Buckley and Warren Zevon. That's a good start, but it's not usually enough to hook me, so I listened on. And on.



As the album played and my adoration for it continued to grow, I looked at the list of song titles to see what I was hearing was called. Another treasure trove to absorb! “Odetta,” “Dark Tears,” “Tomorrow is October” and “Room at Arles” all allude to the complex mysteries that this man has experienced and solved in his lifetime, and each is backed in practice here by a lush but tastefully appointed wall of sound supplied by Henry himself, pianist Keefus Ciancia, bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose, with added sparkle contributed by guitarist Marc Ribot, singer Lisa Hannigan, Patrick Warren on pump organ and singer Jean McClain. I don’t normally get hooked so easily but there is enough complexity in these compositions (which broaden as the record progresses across even more genres that I enjoy) and enough grit in his voice and emotions to intrigue me into listening to more, and more.

While I'm not normally the type to just dive in and start talking about a record cold (I usually like to know a little more about the artist than I did before I was introduced to Joe Henry), I was really taken by Reverie. This music is beautiful and, now that I've fallen in love with it, I want to hear more; I want to see what other back story Joe Henry has committed to tape. Thankfully, my subscription to mog.com will help me develop a new obsession through listening to his catalogue.

Artist:

www.joehenrylovesyoumadly.com/
www.myspace.com/joehenry2
www.facebook.com/JoeHenryLovesYouMadly

Album:

Reverie is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Joe Henry – [Album]

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Friday, 28 September 2007

On Civilians, Joe Henry has locked into the busted shuffle of the patrons at the Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (as John Hammond did on Wicked Grin and Nathan Wiley on Bottom Dollar Baby) that finds the singer articulating modest hopes, dreams and failures as a survivor of them rather than their chronicler. This time out, Henry doesn’t scale back the production of the album in order to express the corrosion of his characters and observations of them as much as he thins the arrangements out; amid little more than an acoustic guitar, spare, virtually cymbal-free drumming, piano and stand-up bass, Henry carefully and cathartically lays out the stories of his down-and-out patrons while placing himself among them instead of watching them from the outside. There’s a certain romance in Henry’s voice as he lays them out too; as the singer walks lonely streets in “I Will Write My Book,” “Shut Me Up,” and the title track, Henry’s empathy for his characters shines through and there’s a certain careful love in the themes and situations that he finds as he goes. Joined occasionally by piano institution Van Dyke Parks and guitarist Bill Frisell, Joe Henry discovers the magical path to beauty through the direst and bleak circumstances on Civilians—nothing about the album is rose colored, and that actually helps it along. Civilians is beautiful like a rain-slicked street. [BA]

Civilians is out now on Anti-

For more on Joe Henry: www.joehenrylovesyoumadly.com

Download "Civilians" – [mp3]

Download "Our Song" – [mp3]

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