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CD Review: Joe Henry

Blood From Stars (Anti-/Epitaph)

Blood From Stars begins decorously, with pianist Jason Moran offering a delicate touch on "Prelude: Light No Lamp When the Sun Comes Down." From there, the brassy skronk of cornet punctuates the self-conscious mystery of "The Man I Keep Hid," which finds Henry alluding to a secret he doesn't really have. Sketched in gentle flamenco tones, "This Is My Favorite Cage" is classic Henry, unsentimentally romanticizing the duality of human relationships. Opening with low and ominous guitars, loosely pounding drums and a claustrophobic feel, "Death to the Storm" is all deep blues, with a vocal chorus pulled straight from a snake-handlers' spiritual as Marc Ribot's guitar rings out, parrying and thrusting against the rolling thunder of bass and drums. The sax instrumental "Over Her Shoulder" is a good thought, but it sounds too restrained for this boisterous album. "Stars" caps the album with a depiction of love's end, driven by echoing guitars and clangorous drums. "Prelude" returns as "Coda" to frame the journey from resentment to resignation, reinforced by Henry's vocals which illuminate darkness as a tool for revelation. The unyielding nature of these songs — both to traditional narrative voice and sonic restraint — makes this a thrilling album, offering new insights and sounds with each track. It's arguably Henry's most accomplished album. — Nicholas Hall

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