Here is another contender for my favorite album of the year: Civilians, by Joe Henry. I'm guessing the pro critics are comparing him (favorably) to Tom Waits, and there are moments when they share the gimlet-eyed perspective of the organ-grinder. More to the point, they both tap into the rich vein of Kurt Weil's artistic legacy. But where Waits can lurch toward the grotesque and occasionally sensational, Henry takes care to slide just beneath the surface, where desire and disappointment sit together like nettlesome siblings.
Pray for you, pray for me
Sing it like a song
Life is short but, by the grace of God,
This night is long
Henry's music is orchestrated to sustain the tension of his lyrics, intimating the sort of boozy comfort that flickers and disappears beneath the cloud of an oncoming hangover. I've received good comments from cafe customers, and the disc fits easily into my dining-room soundtrack as well. Highly recommended.
Joe Henry's site is here. Re: pro critics, Civilians seems to have received excellent reviews from everyone but the smarty-pants who think there's a better party somewhere else.