As I’ve complied a list of my favorite movies, books, and music of 2009 over the last couple weeks, I’ve gone back and reread some of the reviews of those entries from my favorite critics. Joe Henry’s Blood From Stars, my second favorite record of 2009, received its best review from Andy Whitman, describing the album far better than I ever could. Andy’s review of Bruce Springsteen’s Magic is what converted me to being a fan of the Boss, and knowing what he thought about Joe Henry is one thing that finally persuaded me to check him out, along with Jeffrey Overstreet’s repeated raves.
In his review of Blood From Stars for Paste Magazine, Andy wrote:
Joe Henry is a world-weary romantic; too jaded by false claims and hyped hopes to swallow the vapid Hallmark Card cliches, too cognizant of the tiny miracles of everyday existence to write off the promise and redemptive power of love. That’s the uneasy conundrum that informs every song on Blood From Stars, his eleventh album in an ongoing series of dispatches from the war-ravaged front lines of a life.
After describing the music and sharing with us his favorite songs, Andy wraps up his review by telling us where he thinks the genius of Blood From Stars lays. He writes:
It’s the work of a poetic asshole who is well loved, and grace has the final word. I’m tempted to call it a stone cold masterpiece, but there’s nothing cold about it. It’s a big, open-hearted, warm paean to the hazards and triumphs of love, human and divine. There’s no use separating the two, Joe Henry seems to be telling us. The human is illumined by the flickering light of something better and outside ourselves, and the divine is given substance and form by messy, redemptive relationships. It’s the truest album I’ve heard this year, and the best.
To everything Andy writes, I add a hearty “Amen.” Do yourself a favor and check it out.