Release Date: Aug 18, 2009
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Rock, Blues, Singer-Songwriter
"Channel" follows it, a love song about disorder that is played as anything but. Henry's character asks simple questions that offer significant difficulties in his inner world, but he embraces them: "I want my story straight/But all the others bend/From wondrous to strange/To beauty at the end...." It's a haunting melody that would be -- if we had them anymore -- a parlor song. Both songs reflect something lost and hidden in the wires and satellites of modern life: that individuals -- no matter how lost, determined, angry, displaced, hopeful, or praying for redemption at any cost -- still have human voices that speak, at least on the inside, constantly.
On Blood From Stars, his 11th ? album, Henry explores new combinations of sounds and genres in an on-?going effort to avoid ? predictability. Guitarist Marc Ribot flirts with a cornet, while Henry’s sax-playing teenage son Levon makes an impressive debut. They play ballads, waltzes, and slow dances that give Henry’s vignettes time to unwind, like weary travelers unpacking their burdens over cigarettes and gin.
Beginning with 1996’s Trampoline, Joe Henry began leaving behind his work’s more overt country influences in favor of a sound that was—no matter what touchstones you might hear on a given album—distinctly Joe Henry. He could write a simple love song, or craft a metaphoric account of seeing an elderly Willy Mays at Home Depot, or coax Ornette Coleman into the studio for a masterful “Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation”. But no matter what he was doing—even if it meant bringing in jazz musicians like Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau, and Marc Ribot as he did for 2001’s Scar—Henry was always homing in on this sound he heard in his head.
Henry’s new album is average Joe Joe Henry turned out to be one of the most daring stylists to emerge from the alt.country camp, abandoning the folksy rock of his early albums to venture into darker, wilder territory on 1996’s Trampoline. His work since has imagined and re-imagined the crossroads of disparate American musical traditions, finding the exact point where smoky torch songs, rambunctious free jazz, moody art rock, and mournful Dixieland funeral marches all make sense together. Blood From Stars is ostensibly his blues excursion: “Bellwether” and “The Man I Keep Hid” mimic the structure and repetition of the genre, but only as a jumping-off point for Henry’s hazy hybrid sounds.
REBA MCENTIRE “Keep On Loving You”. (Starstruck/Valory).