Short Man's Room
Starting with this album, the extended collaboration between Joe Henry and the Jayhawks produced three very fine examples of latter-day roots-rock: Short Man's Room arrived in 1992, followed in successive years by Kindness of the World and the Fireman's Wedding EP. Henry's later explorations of groove, soul, and jazz influences on his basically folkie songwriting would prove rewarding, but this album was his first masterpiece. From the sharply rendered narratives of "King's Highway," the title track, and the indelible closer "One Shoe On," to the more impressionistic likes of "Stations" and "The Diving Bell," the lyrics unlock complex emotions couched in the bittersweet, autumnal accompaniment of Gary Louris' chiming guitar, his and Mark Olson's brotherly harmonies, and a rustic filigree of fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. More than a decade after its release, Short Man's Room remains as warm and rewarding ever.