In his liner essay for the album Invisible Hour, Joe Henry writes, "As much as anything, perhaps these are all songs about marriage -- marriage as a verb, not a noun." Henry's words certainly point to the core of the album's themes; Invisible Hour is a striking, emotionally powerful set of songs that deal with the nuts and bolts of love, for better and for worse, and this music speaks with an intimacy and poetic force that use the beauty of Henry's wordplay and vocals not as empty artifice, but as a tool that makes these tales cut even deeper than they might otherwise. While the songs on Invisible Hour are very much about love, the tone of this album is neither romantic or cynical, but honest, compassionate, and contemplative; these lyrics deal with the power and the fragility of the human heart, and for each song like "Sparrow," in which the love of another is a gift that sustains, there's another one like the epic-scale "Sign," a nine-minute picaresque in which a man searches the world for the feeling he briefly knew as a heartsick schoolboy. These songs are never simple, but they're not needlessly complicated, either, and Henry's vocals are strong and eloquent against the dynamic, carefully detailed acoustic backdrops of his studio band, which includes drummer Jay Bellerose, Greg Leisz on guitar and mandolin, and Levon Henry on reeds. Joe Henry has always had a knack for excellent wordplay and knows how to find great sounds and conjure great performances in the studio, but Invisible Hour is most impressive in how spare it is; there is almost nothing here that doesn't help set the mood or move the songs forward, and in this elegant approach, Henry finds something remarkable. Invisible Hour is a beautiful, haunting collection of songs that only Joe Henry could create, and whether you're familiar with his work of not, you're likely to find something that will impress you on this album.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming