Audio for this feature is no longer available. The albums was released on August 18, 2009.
Joe Henry's latest album features music he recorded with his son Levon.
Joe Henry's latest album features music he recorded with his son Levon. Lauren Dukoff
Joe Henry says his job is "to make something meaningful come out of a pair of speakers." He's been doing it for years on his own albums — he's now made 11 of his own — and as a producer for Solomon Burke, Bettye LaVette, Allen Toussaint, Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Loudon Wainwright III and Aimee Mann. The sound of a Joe Henry record is unmistakable, whether it's one of his own or one he's produced. There's richness to the instruments, as well as depth and warmth that help set his work apart.
On his 11th studio album, Blood From Stars, you'll hear a raw and stark Henry, both as a singer and as a guitarist. The songs are often blues-based; Tom Waits sprang to mind when I first heard it. The performances by pianist Patrick Warren, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose sound inspired, which is no surprise: Providing inspiration seems to be Henry's specialty. (The album also introduces a new talent on saxophone: Henry's 17-year-old son Levon.) It's nice to record in a great room, and it's nice to have the right microphones and recording gear, but if there's no inspiration, it won't endure. Blood From Stars sounds genuinely inspired, which makes it a record with a long shelf life.