Joe Henry, Tiny Voices
Record producer's cinematic album takes on loss, betrayal and misplaced hopes.
Joe Henry made a passel of well regarded, little-noticed albums in the '80s and '90s that got tagged "alt-country" partly due to working with members of the Jayhawks, partly due to his Dylanesque delivery, and partly due to the one-two-three-go approach favored by country rockers who figure that intros are just too Nashville. His songs have always been smart, some even memorable, but until he began producing others, no one ever accused Henry of crafting arrangements with the same intelligence and care as he does his songs. Having produced soul titans Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette as well as Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco, Henry has taken a wildly different and more creative approach, bringing in players as if he were casting a movie, shaping the songs like scenes in that film. Tiny Voices continues this approach, using clarinetist Don Byron and everyone's favorite drummer Jim Keltner to advantage, creating a smoky film-noir atmosphere of loss, betrayal and misplaced hopes.