Joe Henry – the veteran singer, songwriter, guitarist and acclaimed producer – will release his second Anti- disc, Civilians, on September 11th, 2007. The twelve song set was recorded and mixed in his home studio and counts the talents of guest pianist Van Dyke Parks on the brilliantly poignant “Civil War” and the emotive, lilting “I Will Write My Book.”
“The songs have the right amount of smoke, the right number of mirrors and the right kind of clarity,” Henry says. “I feel like I’m moving forward with Civilians. I wouldn’t say that it came together effortlessly, but this record certainly feels as if it was supposed to happen.”
Having produced artists as diverse as Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello, Bettye Lavette, Mary Gauthier and the 2003 Grammy Award winning Solomon Burke disc Don’t Give Up On Me – plus his longtime hero Loudon Wainwright III for the soundtrack to the smash Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up – Henry says all of these collaborations have informed Civilians.
“As a producer, you can see a project in a completely different way,” says Henry, who also recently worked with Richie Havens, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, John Doe and Bob Forrest on the soundtrack to the upcoming, Bob Dylan-inspired Todd Haynes film, I’m Not There: Suppositions On A Film Concerning Dylan. “Working with other artists has given me an incredible education, so that when I come back to do work for myself and plug into the music in a different way, I’m able to see where I’m going with an added dimension.”
Drawing from all aspects of Joe's wide-ranging background, his new Anti- offering is his warmest and most cohesive musical statement yet. “I wanted these songs to operate in a way that was clearer,” Henry explains. “I set a goal to be sonically, lyrically and vocally lucid. When I started Civilians, I was very conscious of wanting to strip things back. I wanted to hear a lot of air in the room. And I picked musicians accordingly to help create that vibe.”
With jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist and chamberlain organist Patrick Warren, guitarist and dobro player Greg Leisz, bassist Dave Pilch and longtime drummer Jay Bellerose, Henry has assembled an ideal cast for Civillians. From the blues-inflected, “Time Is A Lion” – replete with infectious hand claps – or the memorable love-torn ballad “Scare Me To Death” to the album’s centerpiece “Our Song,” Civilians finds the troubadour balancing sharp personal and political observations with assurance and sophistication.
On the latter, Henry wryly and soulfully chronicles an overdeveloped, insensitive and downright pushy America as he imagines bumping into baseball icon Willie Mays at a Scottsdale, Arizona Home Depot. “It’s no accident that the song falls where it does, in the middle of the record,” Henry admits. “It’s sort of the hub of the wheel.”
Henry says his only goal for Civilians was, “to make a better record and different record than I’ve ever made. And yet I don’t think I’ve ever made a record where I’ve felt so completely liberated, and I think that the fact that I’ve been producing so many records has got me to the point where I’m working from a place of strength.”