Music Review: A dreamy set to savor from Joe Henry

Joe Henry, “Reverie” (Anti-)

Joe Henry is an unconventional singer. He bobs and weaves and scoops while breathing in the midst of a phrase and even in the middle of words.

The distinctive approach matches Henry’s material on “Reverie” a collection of 14 wonderfully strange songs. Twelve albums into his performing career, Henry — better known as a Grammy-winning producer — has pushed his writing beyond category, avoiding the clichis that define and confine genres. Any time a song on “Reverie” threatens to settle too comfortably into blues, folk or jazz, drummer Jay Bellerose provides a jolt with rude percussion that resembles a broom-closet mishap. Another odd aural thread is the neighborhood noises between cuts: Dogs bark, owners whistle, horns honk and traffic creates a dull whoosh. Henry’s world is anywhere and everywhere.

He offers similes to savor and metaphors that mystify as dreamy images race past. His songs repeatedly reference rivers, fences and walls — things that divide, but also places to gather. There’s a lot of fire and smoke and shadow and darkness, but little narrative and few characters. An eloquent essay in the liner notes offers the best clue as to what Henry’s singing about, but even with the fuzzy meanings, these are songs worth knowing.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: “Piano Furnace” is about music and more. The title instrument serves up thick chords in waltz time as Henry lauds hymns for the hopeless.

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