Joe Henry

Civilians | Anti-
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  September 12, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
Like T Bone Burnett and Tom Waits, whose latest albums share this disc’s elegant, elemental sonic approach, Joe Henry is an unlikely candidate for a protest CD, even one this subtle. But “Our Song” is Civilians’ emotional heart, and it’s an essay about the nation’s lost soul. On his 11th release, poetic lyrics rub up against a vision for arranging that’s as organic as stone. The 12 songs are rhythmically warm and appealing thanks to Jay Bellirose’s spare-cymballed drumming and the beautifully knotty guitars of Henry, Bill Frisell, and Greg Leisz. There’s also plenty of open space — still the key to conjuring the American landscape even after so much malling. “You Can’t Fail Me Now” is the most seductive tune, thanks to its gliding steel-guitar hook and Henry’s sweetest melodic vocal, even as it signals fading hope for the future. Henry has recently produced excellent recordings for Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, Susan Tedeschi, and the team of Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, and Mavis Staples. Civilians is a reminder that he’s a performer of equal rank.

Joe Henry, "Civilians" (mp3)
Joe Henry, "Time Is a Lion" (mp3)

Joe Henry | Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | September 21 | 617.369.3393


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