Joe Henry: Civilians

C+

Joe Henry

Album: Civilians
Label: Anti-

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Because Joe Henry has become entrenched as "the songwriter's songwriter," steadily releasing critically beloved albums of smart character sketches, it's tough to object publicly to the way so many of his songs sound damnably similar, blanded-out by his pinched rasp and seeming disinterest in melody. It's like complaining that art-film directors don't move the camera, or that modernist poetry doesn't rhyme. So it's probably safer to point out the redeeming qualities of Henry's latest record, Civilians, like the moody, evocative tracks "Parker's Mood" and "Civil War," where lack of structure keeps the focus on a general mood of weary resignation. And it's probably better not to point out that songs just like those are available on nearly every Joe Henry album.

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