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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 60 - 09/02/01

Joe Henry

Joe Henry has always been an adventurous spirit when it comes to exploring different musical territories. He's best known for his two country-influenced albums that contained members from Jayhawks and gave him a good reputation among fans of alternative rock and country. His album Trampoline from 1996 moved into a bit different direction with drum loops, loud electric guitars and collaboration with Helmets' guitarist Page Hamilton and drummer Carla Azar from the band Edna Swap. Fuse from 1999 was mixed by Daniel Lanois and T-bone Burnett and moved into a pop, jazz folk "soundscape". His latest musical journey Scar is a step further in the jazz direction where he's got good help from jazz-musicians in world class for instance the old free-jazz legend Ornette Coleman. This gives the album a nice frame for Henry's storytelling. Many critics have compared his stories with the K-mart realism school especially Raymond Carver, but Henry don't regard himself as "literary" in the way that the lyrics are separate from the music. They are both dependent on each other (Hearsay #14a 1996).

This mixing of texture and genres is at the same time both the album's strength and weakness. Whether you like it or not is depending on your own musical preferences. I'm not really into the jazz scene (especially not jazz-funk and free jazz), but I do like the old nostalgic jazz-music. This album contains some great pearls where the musical relation to a young Tom Waits is quite clear. He's at his best when he's into the old "crooner in a smoky bar in a Film Noir movie". In interviews he's also told that film is a big influence when he's making music. But sometimes he's balancing on a thin line like on Rough and Tumble, which is a bit too funky and slick for me. I also find Mean Flowers rather boring. But at it's best the album is truly beautiful in its autumnal soundscape. Scar is desperate and bittersweet tale about the difficult and dark side of love.

Best moments: The wonderful and nostalgic Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation, Stop, the elegantly remake of Madonna's Don't Tell Me with tango and cabaret elements, the bittersweet and tender Lock And Key and the psychedelic folky Edgar Bergen, and for you free jazz enthusiasts there's a little surprise with Ornette Coleman at the end of the CD.

Copyright © 2001 Mariann Skjerdal e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Joe Henry article/review: The Invisible Hour.

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