Picks and Pans Review: You'll Never Get to Heaven
Singer-songwriters haven't been such a big deal since 1988, the year Tracy Chapman hot-rodded up the pop charts with her "Fast Car." Girls with guitars are attracting the most attention, but male troubadours like Henry and Morrissey are making beautiful noise of their own.
Syncopated percussion and Henry's weathered, Dylanesque croon propel the spectral acoustic mood of Trampoline (Mammoth/Atlantic). Taking a cue from his adventurous sister-in-law Madonna—big sister of his wife, Melanie—Henry pushes his quiet riot over the cutting edge on his sixth full-length release. Trampoline defies classification, rumbling with industrial sound effects and offering inspired musical touches: "Flower Girl" blooms with bits of opera, and "Let Me Have It All" overhauls and nearly outfunks the Sly Stone oldie.
Bill Morrissey's seventh album, You'll Never Get to Heaven (Philo/Rounder), though more traditional than Henry's effort, is equally satisfying. Sprinkling Heaven's fertile folk soundscape with bits of various genres, including a brassy waltz motif ("Hills of Tuscany"), Tex-Mex ("Turn and Spin") and ragtime ("Big Leg Ida"), Morrissey sounds like a wise old bird, offering, in hushed tones, both visionary and more obvious truths like "You'll never get to heaven if you don't stop drinking." Perhaps, but why worry about getting to heaven when listening to these albums is sort of like already being there?