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The career of Joe Henry is a story of ebb and flow. Over the course of a nearly three decade career he’s moved from stately neo-classic rock (Murder of Crows) to acoustic-centered folk rock (Shuffletown, Short Man’s Room) to groove-based atmospheric soul (Trampoline, Fuse) to the increasingly experimental and jazzy take on singer/songwriter music he’s been employing of late (Blood From Stars, Reverie). For his thirteenth record Invisible Hour, the busy producer cranks the late night vibe, calling to mind the sonic settings of his early 90s work while still retaining the jazz influences of his ‘aughties LPs. Acoustic guitars snuggle up with a low-key clarinet section on “Water Between Us,” “Alice” and the folky “Plainspeak,” while “Sparrow” and “Grave Angels” come across like old standards being jammed on the back porch at midnight. The straightforward “Lead Me On” could’ve come right off of Shuffletown. This is a quiet, ballad-heavy record (the sprightly “Every Sorrow” being an exception), with subtle melodies and textures that take time and attention to gain traction. But the effort is well worth it, as Invisible Hour becomes yet another in Henry’s long series of triumphs.
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