The Henrys - Chasing Grace
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cd cover The Henrys
Chasing Grace (1996)

Musicians: Don Rooke (kona, National tricone, acoustic guitar, hawaiian guitar, archtop), Monte Horton (guitar), David Trevis (bass, acoustic bass, electric guitar), Michael Billiard (drums, percussion), Michael White (trumpet, conch shell), Mary Margeret O’Hara (vocals), John Sheard (keyboards), Duffy Waldorf (house party)

Also by The Henrys:
Joyous Pourous (2002)
Puerto Angel (1997)
Desert Cure (1998)
Don Rooke - Atlas Travel (2003)

"My number one album of 1994. Under the fluid, guiding hands of Don Rooke - who plays kona, dobro, lap steel and steel drums - The Henrys move effortlessly through stirring country ballads with [singer] Mary Margaret O'Hara ("The One Rose", "Dark Dear Heart"), lonesome desert laments ("Look So Good," "Coyote Basin") and jazz ("Bunt"). The dexterous Henrys take it all in stride and listeners will revel in their musical diversity. This second release covers tons of rootsy material and does it so very, very well." - Joe Reilly, Ottawa Express


"Originally released in 1994 in their native Canada, Puerto Angel is the debut of The Henrys, who have a lot going for them (other than the great name). Like What? Five excellent musicians with molto simpatico and - cover the kiddies' ears if easily offended - mucho taste, alors.

The Henrys have a few master strokes, the first being resident composer-in-chief/steel drummer/dobro player and kona virtuoso Don Rooke. Kona? Yep, it's a Hawaiian steel-strung slide guitar with a hollow neck, that just rings and resonates like you wouldn't believe. Some of the tracks accordingly have a Cooder-Kottke feel to them, and good for them - if you're going to be compared to somebody by idiot reviewers looking for points of reference, these guys aren't a bad start.

But there's a fair amount of Other Stuff happening on the tracks - the second interesting pont is that for an instrumental band, there's a lot of vocals around, all by guest artists. Michael Dunston growls effectively through a John Hiatt song, and then along comes Mary Margaret O'Hara. It transpires that Rooke has worked with O'Hara before, and she comes along and does her weird vocal thing on three tracks, as well as singing The One Rose absolutely straight - probably the biggest shock of all. And it all works really well.

Third, those comparisons above are only valid for some of the album; there are jazzy, bluesy grooves, slow, aching solo pieces, and some unclassifiable tracks that demand being listened to. Good vibes all around. Catch them if they tour - if they're half as good live, they're still well ahead of most." - Ian Kearey, Folk Roots Magazine, London, U.K., December 1995

The Henrys' bio

The Henrys is a Toronto-based, nearly instrumental quartet. Their music features the sound of an antique slide guitar called a Kona, with guitar, bass, organ, drums, and various other instruments. Joyous Porous is their fourth release. It joins three other internationally acclaimed CDs: Puerto Angel (1994), Chasing Grace (1996) and Desert Cure (1998).

The band has been performing for 10 years, with concerts at the Toronto Jazz Festival, the National Gallery in Ottawa, the NXNE festival, Toronto's Harbourfront Centre (including a duet with east Indian slide phenomenon V.M. Bhatt), and many others. They played Sunday nights at Ted's Collision and Body Repair in Toronto's Little Italy section for almost two years. Further afield, the group performed at the 1996 Vancouver Folk Festival and the 1997 SXSW in Austin, Texas. They headlined at NYC's famous Bottom Line in 1998.It is the eclectic nature of their music that makes them equally at home in jazz, folk and indie/alternative venues.

The group's distinctive sound is due in large part to the use of an antique slide guitar called a Kona. The Kona, played by leader Don Rooke, is a rare acoustic instrument with unique tonal purity. Konas were manufactured out of Hawaiian koa wood in California in the 1920s. It is played slide style, flat, with a small steel bar. The Henrys combine the sound of the Kona with electric guitar, bass, trumpet and conch shell, drum kit, and sometimes organ and voice. As well as mixing up a unique collection of instruments, the original music they play also mixes disparate influences, most notably a roots style based in folk and blues with the overlay of a more current jazz vocabulary. Some have described it as occupying a space between the classic roots sound of Ry Cooder and the modern jazz harmonies of Bill Frisell.

Descriptions by the press of The Henrys' distinctive music run variously as "cocktail music for rough cider drinkers," "a relief for souls that are fed up with pop music," "sprightly, balming, edgy and eclectic," "tropical noir," "an almost ambient concoction of swinging jazz, country and blues tinged by flickering neon," and, simply, "essential." The 1994 independent Canadian release of their Puerto Angel led to international exposure. The album was picked by the Ottawa Xpress as the number one CD of the year. As well as the instrumental core, guests on that record included Mary Margaret O'Hara, whose stunning vocal style is heard on four tracks, from the peaceful country waltz The One Rose to the twisted funk of Muscle Beach.

Soon after its release England's Demon Records (Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe) released Puerto Angel in Europe. The influential Q Magazine gave it a 4-star review. Mojo called it "a delight on numerous levels." The CD was subsequently released in the USA where Ink Magazine called it, "Classic Americana. Wonderfully arranged, sharply talented and springing from the sheer joy of playing. Something extraordinary." The follow-up CD, Chasing Grace, was greeted with equal enthusiasm: "Sinuous slide guitars and torque-wrench tight rhythms. The compositions and playing are impeccable. Make this one of your essential albums," said Folk Roots Magazine from the U.K.

Around this time the band was invited to Austin, Texas to perform at the famous SXSW festival. Desert Cure was finished just after the band's European label, Demon Records, was sold. Many groups, including The Henrys, found themselves suddenly without European distribution.

Fortunately a label in Italy quickly released Desert Cure in October '98, to rave reviews. Guitar Player magazine commented: "The third disc from this Toronto combo firmly establishes Don Rooke as one of acoustic guitar's greatest unsung heroes. Rooke is a startling original who seems constitutionally incapable of resorting to slide cliches."

Soon after the release of Desert Cure, The Henrys traveled to New York to perform at The Bottom Line, and to festivals in New Zealand and Holland. They continue to perform wherever they can afford to. Joyous Porous was recorded mainly in Toronto during 2002. It again features the crystalline vocals of Mary Margaret O'Hara, along with Toronto musicians David Piltch, Jorn Anderson, Michael White, John Sheard and Hugh Marsh.

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