Joe Henry, ‘Blood From Stars’ (Anti-)
Joe Henry’s transformation over the last decade from roots-rock traditionalist to jazzy, avant-blues beatnik has been startling, so it’s tempting to hear Blood From Stars as a half step backward. It’s a collection of bluesy, meditative tunes that feels less like the bold declarations of 2001’s Scar or 2003’s Tiny Voices and more like a consolidation of his talents. Restraint is key: Creeping guitar lines and delicate piano plinks seem to emerge from the ether; horns and woodwinds add texture but rarely draw attention to themselves. These soulful laments and menacing gospel rumbles don’t really demand attention but reward it handsomely.