Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Henry offers ‘kind-word blues’ set


“There goes the sun,” Joe Henry sings, sounding nothing like George Harrison as he contemplat­es our long, cold, lonely winter.

“All the Eye Can See” is the most diverse album of Henry’s career, surroundin­g his acoustic guitar with mysterious sounds ancient and modern. The songs are “kind-word blues,” as one verse describes them, with Henry seeking light in a world dimmed by plague, protests, politics and the death of his mother.

As ever, Henry’s lyricsas-literature are inscrutabl­e and irresistib­le, full of word combinatio­ns not normally found in a songbook. Ghosts sing, words conspire, mountains fall and borders bleed and blur. Meanwhile, God laughs.

The album was created largely in pandemic isolation, with Henry shipping skeletal recordings to past collaborat­ors as he solicited contributi­ons. What resulted is expansive, arresting accompanim­ent involving more than 20 musicians, including Bill Frisell, Daniel Lanois, Allison Russell and Patrick Warren.

Tempos are all slow to moderate, but no two songs sound alike. In each case, the music lifts the lyrics. These are spirituals of a sort, mixing pleas and prayers and references to the Old Testament. Fire is everywhere, to be feared but also to illuminate.

One conclusion Henry draws: We’re all in this together. “How did I think this story just my own?” he sings on “Pass Through Me Now.” As the song ends, Frisell’s guitar twinkles, brightenin­g the day. — Steven Wine, Associated Press

Etta Marcus hates

being called a sad girl. Her major label debut, “HeartShape­d Bruise,” features its share of pain and loss, but the singer-songwriter comes out swinging from the opening track, “Nosebleed,” singing “I’m the bitch that broke your nose.” The violence of the line, like the record title itself, is a metaphoric­al reference to the artist’s own interior struggles, and a jarring command to lean forward and listen.

On “Heart-Shaped Bruise,” Marcus makes good use of the new set of musical tools at her disposal. Her sound is now more complex and expansive, incorporat­ing new elements such as horns and strings to ratchet up the emotional intensity.

Marcus produced the new EP with her guitarist, Josh Scarbrow. Despite the increased complexity, the recording keeps her strengths front and center — her voice remains a strong and versatile vehicle for her lyrical dexterity.

The production pays loving attention to the many sounds that guitars can make. Marcus is a devoted fan of David Bowie, and her skill at building complicate­d songs around a simple scaffoldin­g of rhythm guitar evokes Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” era.

While her earlier selfreleas­ed music placed Marcus squarely in the DIY singer-songwriter camp, “Heart-Shaped Bruise” is both more accessible and harder to pin to a specific genre. The more up-tempo sound is a blend of pop with well-chosen moments of subtle country and jazz elements.

The interplay of horns and acoustic guitar on “Smile for the Camera,” for example, gives the single a strong 1980s vibe, and here the mix of up-tempo sound and biting dark humor evokes complaint-rock bands of the era such as The Smiths. — Jim Pollock, Associated Press

NCT 127 should be

credited as inventors of a new genre: neo-chill hop.

The repackaged “Ay-Yo,” of its fourth studio album “2 Baddies,” comes with three extra tracks that move the needle in the too-cool direction. The title track goes hard on an industrial trip-hop sound, “DJ” finds a funky jazzy beat embracing the ’70s and “Skyscraper” pins its hopes on a straightfo­rward hip-hop line.

The 15 tracks in total form a cohesive record that neverthele­ss has its ebbs and flows in terms of catchy hooks. Sometimes NCT 127 delivers an epic melody with outstandin­g vocals like “2 Baddies,” or a sexy smooth “Gold Dust,” or an R&B groove with Caribbean undertones such as “Designer.” But you also get a low energy “Black Clouds” from time to time.

The nine-member K-pop group is known for its more experiment­al sound, and it proves yet again you can peopleplea­se with a twist. — Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press

 ?? ?? ‘Heart-Shaped Bruise’
By Etta Marcus (Polydor)
‘Heart-Shaped Bruise’ By Etta Marcus (Polydor)
 ?? ?? ‘All the Eye Can See’ Joe Henry (Ear Music)
‘All the Eye Can See’ Joe Henry (Ear Music)

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