Joe Henry

Civilians (Anti-)

| November / December 2007

“Our Song,” the bleeding heart of Joe Henry’s tenth album, finds the torchlit, modern-day troubadour watching Willie Mays shop for garage door springs in a Scottsdale Home Depot. The wordless encounter—in which the aging baseball legend appears “stooped by the burden” of a nation’s dashed dreams—is, like the rest of this lushly produced collection, grist for a low-key commentary on disenchantment, romantic longing, and America’s creeping, collective ennui. In contrast to Henry’s recent recordings that have featured increasingly dissonant forays into postmodern pop and modal jazz, the blues, ballads, and soft-shoe swingers on this outing are self-consciously straitlaced and ultimately more satisfying. The music leaves the listener imagining that Henry would have felt right at home spinning his autobiographical stories in a Prohibition-era speakeasy—with a great sound system, of course.