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iTunes Review

Joe Henry’s tenth solo album Civilians continues the man’s nourishing appreciation for life. It’s a lonely night for the soul but one fused with wit and humor as the smallest details add up to a grander overview. With nightclub jazz in his voice and a ramshackle jackhammer rhythm, “Our Song” channels a dark vision for the future with things “ending wrong” despite running into Willie Mays in an Arizona Home Depot. Throughout the album, the musical touches are subtle but assured. Guitarist Bill Frisell adds his usual eerie, swooning guitar lines, while Henry scores strings with Van Dyke Parks and hammers at pianos with an intensity that underscores the existential torpor guiding these songs. “Scare Me to Death” has a cup filled with the “worst kind of hope.” “Civil War” is the sound of a man discovering the shadows that accompany the light. “I Will Write My Book” tries to find a constructive outlet for the inner rage. Henry, however, is the consummate professional and while he threatens to come unhinged, he manages to stay composed long enough to sound like a relatively rational man.

Customer Reviews

Astonishingly Good

More often than not, the most brilliant work is overlooked by the mainstream. This album is so thoroughly good it is hard to believe. The more you listen to it, the more its depth, intelligence and emotional intensity are revealed. It is perhaps the most articulate group of songs released by any songwriter in the last 10 years. This record is a treasure - made all the more precious by the fact that it is largely hidden from the mainstream view. A masterpiece.

More amazing songwriting from J. Henry

This is an incredible release. It took me a couple of turns through to get gotten but after a year and half I'm still finding new things. And "Our Song" is as moving to me as any music has ever been.

More gems from Mr. Henry

Joe Henry is a wonderful musician and lyricist, but he doesn't always put all wit and texture to use in memorable songs, so I've found his previous albums to be somewhat uneven. When he's on target, though, his songs lodge in your head and stay there ("Dirty Magazine", off Tiny Voices; "Richard Pryor . . ." off Scar). This album has a rich, warm, organic sound, and more hits than misses. "Civilians", "Parker's Mood", and especially "Time Is a Lion", "Our Song", and "God Only Knows" are powerful, moving, and --for Joe Henry-- hummable, and will be added to my list of Joe Henry classics.


Born: December 2, 1960 in Charlotte, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A gifted songwriter and vocalist whose intimate, richly detailed songs have been shaped by his eclectic musical worldview (encompassing rock, folk, country, soul, and jazz influences), Joe Henry is also a well-respected producer who has helped a wide range of artists refine their songs in the studio. Henry was born on December 2, 1960 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He grew up in the Detroit area of Michigan, attended the University of Michigan, and subsequently relocated to New York City in 1985....
Full Bio