When: Fri., Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m. 2012
Joe Henry clearly takes joy in writing his lyrics, even though the people he sings about rarely get to feel much in the way of joy. On the folk rocker's latest album, Reveries (Anti-), most of the songs concern folks who've reached one breaking point or another; in "Odetta" the protagonist is on the brink of death or damnation, desperate for help, and in "Sticks & Stones" the narrator is forced to act when "every new leaf I had is gone." But Henry's writing makes his love of language so clear that it's easy to look past the plights of his characters and simply revel in his words. Sometimes the way one line leads into the next would almost seem stream-of-consciousness if they didn't all add up in the end: on "Strung," for instance, he sings, "I dig in the dirt and yank at the root / Of the shadow's dark vein in a story gone mute / Till it sings with the blue of a hangman in time / And I give away what never was mine." His imagery sucks me in, and I don't mind getting lost there. Henry gives his expert backing band the latitude to express its personality, and drummer Jay Bellerose is especially outstanding—his loose-limbed yet ultraprecise playing veers into meterless explosions that parallel the breakdowns in the lives of the characters, but he never loses the thread of a song. Henry's propulsive acoustic guitar and Keefus Ciancia's elegant piano swing between early jazz and rural blues, peaking in splintered, percussive jags and ebbing into elegant walking grooves. —Peter Margasak For more on Joe Henry, see Artist on Artist.