Joe Henry; Civilians (Anti/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

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Joe Henry: You Can't Fail Me Now
Joe Henry; Civilians (Anti/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

With a small band, and guests Bill Frisell (on guitar) and Van Dyke Parks (piano), the much ignored Henry continues his singular path which owes a little to a less grumbly Tom Waits but remains properly in the singer-songwriter tradition with nods to folk and the blues.

Here are classically-framed ballads (You Can't Fail Me Now) and songs with social and political resonance (Civil War, the lament-filled Our Song), and Henry adopts a more direct lyrical and musical approach than some of his previous outings.

He might have taken that step back from angularity, but nothing here feels like a compromise of musical intelligence. And as always his lyrics draw you in to some unusual perspectives or odd narratives.

This is an excellent entry level to Henry, who spends much of his time these days a producer (mostly recently for Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke).

In Parker's Mood he sings "God is in the details" -- and that is true of this quietly exceptional album.

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