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CD: Joe Henry: Blood from Stars

As a songwriter, Joe Henry is a mighty fine producer. When “Blood from Stars” comes to its conclusion, you can barely remember individual songs because they all seem to run together. What lingers is the CD’s atmosphere – dank, jazzy, vaguely sinister. Not unlike Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” or Tom Waits’ recent run of CDs, the album could have been recorded on Fats Waller’s back-porch on a dark and stormy night. Marc Ribot’s guitar thunderbolts occasionally brighten up the inky darkness but Henry’s songs will put you in mind of Depression-era blues and minstrel shuffles.

Not surprisingly, the best numbers are the ones that don’t try and get by on mood alone. “The Man I Keep Hid” is a painful reminder that every one has a secret self; “This Is My Favorite Cage” likens romance to “the loveliest tumble from grace;” and “Bellwether” is the sound of a man determined to persevere even if redemption is “a long ways off from here.”

Musician Joe Henry sings the blues on his new CD "Blood from Stars."

Musician Joe Henry sings the blues on his new CD “Blood from Stars.”

Henry, who as a producer helped revitalize the careers of Allen Toussaint, Bettye LaVette and Solomon Burke, is a glass-half-empty kind of guy. Unlike Dylan and Waits, he has no time for whimsy. A feeling of despair streaks nearly every single track. There’s great beauty in “Blood From Stars” but it could have used a bit more twinkle.

Release: 8/18/09


[Amy Longsdorf’s entertainment coverage has appeared in Blender, People, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Star and Newsday. She doesn’t want to imagine a world without Preston Sturges movies, Stax singles and the music of Bob Marley.]

About Jenny Peters (164 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's,, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (, which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.

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