Steve Henn – A View From the Pews

3 out of 5

Label: Auris Apothecary

Produced by: Dante Augustus Scarlatti (recorded by)

Not being an appreciator of poetry or spoken word, it seems a little too easy for me to rate these four, short readings from Steve Henn as “alright” and call it a day. So I’ll try to add a bit of color:

A View From the Pews features some brief spoken-word entries from Henn, critical of the follow-the-herd, guilt-preying mentalities of mass religions. I interpret that as having a Christian bent, but I’m sure it could be expanded to several creeds. The pieces veer towards sardonic observations, or humor, but there’s also an appreciative bit of openness to it – it’s not just maligning religion directly, but rather the way most go about preaching its tenets. That said, the point I’m docking here is because I can’t say any of this is particularly original. Henn makes the statements his own, but the concepts are easily taken from any high school roundtable of semi-critical thinkers. (Perhaps notable that Henn is a high school teacher?)

The rest of the positive score goes towards presentation, production, and theme.

Presentation-wise, this being Auris Apothecary, we know we’re in good hands: the flimsy plastic lathe cut is kinda weird, but AA does things their own way, and it looks nice. The packaging (Dante Augustus Scarlatti) sticks to the religious themes as well, with a Gothic-type font and a Bible-esque aged looking cover. I also like that the words are reprinted, since this is the kind of stuff that can have a different value read vs. spoken, when Henn can add a performance aspect to it.

As to the production… I have to knock a point off for this, and I’d probably knock it down to two, but I want to keep focus on the content. The digital sounds great: with spoken-word, not too much flash on the recording is required, sure, but still, it’s good that Steve’s voice is clear and resonates well – it doesn’t sound “flat.” However, while it could just be my record player, or my copy, or maybe these types of cuts require some type of stylus or something, but it is staticy as heck. More frankly: it sounds like shit. This sort of resembles a flexi-disc, but I have those and they play fine. So maybe a piece to own as a collection, and to listen to online instead.