The John Henrys have a sound that is un-definable. They draw from a potpourri of influences and styles that blend into something that is part alt-country, part Americana, part jam band and part rock n roll.
Compared to likes of Neil Young, The Band and Tom Petty, The John Henrys have developed a reputation for tight musicianship, original arrangements and well crafted song writing. Band members Rey Sabatin (lead vocals / guitarist), Steve Tatone (keyboards), Doug Gouthro (guitar), Darryl Quinlan (bass) and Geoff Ward (drums) all contribute to the songwriting and production, and a deep appreciation for vintage instruments and analog recording that is heard through their music.
“White Linen”, the band’s third album and their first made with the luxury of a decent recording budget and support of an independent label – Canada’s Linus Entertainment - home to Gordon Lightfoot, Ashley MacIsaac, and Downchild. The band took their time, recording the album over 7 months, putting down 17 songs, paring it down to a tight eleven, sequencing the album as if the band were releasing it only on vinyl, with Side A reflecting the influence of the city, and side B’s songs reflecting stories from the country.
A characteristic of The John Henrys music is the topical songwriting, exploring themes from traditional story-telling, to pain and betrayal, and just moving through life. The album closer – Patriot, is about a battle between 250 American revolutionaries who called themselves the Patriot Hunters, and the 38th regiment of the British Infantry in 1838 beside a windmill - now a lighthouse - located in Prescott, Ontario. Little One, is taken from a simple daily phrase ‘’at the end of the day’’ and Hit The Floor is a nod to dirty 70’s AM radio rock. Cold Chill inspired by the traditional ballad ‘The Banks of the Ohio’, is a modern take on the traditional murder ballad. Dawson City – an earlier arrangement appeared on their first and now discontinued album, is about leaving the far Northern mining town after a soured relationship.
The John Henrys first hit the Canadian music scene with the release of their self-titled debut album released locally in their hometown of Ottawa in 2004. With the support from the local college radio station CKCU the album went to #1 and was featured extensively on CBC radio, including a performance on the national show Definitely Not The Opera. Over the next few years The John Henrys expanded their fan base touring with The Sadies, Cuff the Duke, the Golden Dogs, Elliot Brood and FembBots. The time spent on the road inspired more writing and arranging of songs that would eventually be recorded and released on “Sweet as the Grain” their second album on 9lb Records imprint which was picked up and released by Linus Entertainment. “Sweet as the Grain” went on to receive rave reviews throughout Canada, the UK and the US while hitting #1 hit on iTunes Canada Roots Music Albums week of release and #1 on Earshot National Campus and Community Radio Folk Roots chart, and Top 15 on the XM/Sirius Americana Channel XCountry. In support of the album, the band toured extensively in the US, hitting cities and towns across Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and across the Midwest.
The John Henrys take their name from the John Henry of popular folklore, who has been immortalized in dozens of traditional folk songs. As the story goes, John Henry was a giant who labored laying railway tracks and digging tunnels. He challenged the first steam powered drilling machine to a race to determine what was stronger – man or machine. His superhuman effort won him the race, after which he immediately died of exhaustion.
“Laid-back ballads and thigh slapping outlaw drinking songs and proof that there’s still originality in the genre.”
- Andy Pype, Q Magazine
For publicity inquiries, product request or interview opportunities, please contact Jessica Moore at Linus Entertainment Jessica@linusent.ca 905 278 8883 ext 234
The John Henrys 'Sweet as the Grain' hits # 1 on iTunes Canada top Roots Albums as well as #5 on Canada Roots Radio.
4**** Review for Sweet as the Grain in Q! Magazine UK
“The John Henrys' Sweet as the Grain is a rootsy masterpiece.” Allan Wigney, Ottawa Sun
“Their music emerges from rich traditions, but the John Henrys landscape is their own. They straddle the divide between sweet country and 60’s R&B, and they do it in their own distinct way.” CBC Radio 3
“A twangy twist feel good vibe.” Tim Perlich, Now Magazine
Rey Sabatin - Vox/Guitar, Doug Gouthro - Guitar, Geoff Ward, - Drums, Darryl Quinlan - Bass, Steve Tatone - Keys
White Linen (March 23, 2010)
Sweet as the Grain (2008)
9lb/True North Records distributed by Universal Music Canada, Koch Entertainment USA, Proper UK, available on CD, Digital, and Vinyl
The John Henrys - White Linen Review - !Earshot
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The John Henrys White Linen 9LB The John Henrys aren’t just songwriters, they’re storytellers wit...The John Henrys White Linen 9LB
The John Henrys aren’t just songwriters, they’re storytellers with an incredible knack for putting you in a place that’s familiar but not necessarily specific. White Linen has a definite Americana feel to it: the storytelling vibe of Tom Petty clearly shines through in lyrics and phrasing particularly on ‘Little One’. ‘Cold Chill’ takes an interesting turn into an almost mellow ‘60’s psychedelic intro before turning the anger up a notch and becoming a little harsher and louder. A love for Gram Parsons is also evident in the beautiful vocal harmonies of songs like ‘Piece of Mind’ and even some Elvis Costello pops up here and there in Rey Sabitin Jr.’s vocal performance. Yes, you can easily pin down the influences on the band, but The John Henrys craft something that is uniquely their own. Every member of The John Henrys is quite obviously very accomplished on his instrument, and the band seems to write songs with this in mind. Every instrument gets equal billing in the mix, no burying of the bass or keyboards for this band.
Much of White Linen seems to be written with regret or a lost love in mind. Even something that almost sounds upbeat like ‘White Linen’ is really not a very positive song. Though any song with banjo and what sounds to me to be a Hammond B3 can still make me want to dance! Sweet As The Grain (The John Henrys previous record) had a more ‘jam band’ feel, White Linen features songs that are more concise, and perhaps more purposeful. The songs are a definite growth for a band that has been touring and playing live non-stop since well before their last album was released. Admittedly, it took about 3 listens for me to really ‘get’ this record after falling in love with the previous album, but now I can’t stop spinning it. I can’t wait for it to come out on vinyl so I can hear it the way all great music should be hear, on a record player with headphones! This is a stellar pick and easily a favourite for 2010.
By Jason Wellwood May 27, 2010
Wood, Wires and Whisky
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The John Henrys White Linen By Kerry Doole – APR 2010 Upon first listen, it's almost impossible ...The John Henrys White Linen By Kerry Doole – APR 2010
Upon first listen, it's almost impossible not to play "spot the influence" with the John Henrys. Comparisons to Tom Petty on songs like "Little One" and "Piece Of Mind" are clearly inevitable, while the title track has a Band feel and "Empty Pockets" is reminiscent of Cracker. Still, these are pretty fine influences to have, and after a few spins the main impression gained is what good songwriters and players these guys are. The melodies are both accessible and strong, as are the vocal harmonies. Singer Rey Sabatin Jr. is the primary songwriter, but band-mates Doug Guthro and Steve Tatone chime in with strong solo contributions. White Linen possesses both more focus and stronger production quality than previous effort Sweet As The Grain. This is an album good enough to justify ranking the John Henrys alongside Blue Rodeo, the Sadies and Cuff The Duke in the elite of Canadian roots rock. The album is sequenced with A- and B-sides, respectively representing city and rural themes? Singer/guitarist Rey Sabatin Jr.: It may be a lost art; I think the way we write doesn't happen that much these days. We are kind of old school, so why not do the album like that? It's going to come out on vinyl and that is how I will listen to it. Side A, Side B, 20 minutes apiece. All our favourite albums are that way, so you may as well try to duplicate that. And you prefer analog recording? Rey: Yes, this is all recorded to tape and with analog gear. It doesn't mean we'll always do it that way, but our approach is to build on the people that influence us. We see it as music that stays on the in-between. Like a Stones album such as Exile On Main Street, where there is country on it, but it's still classified as rock'n'roll. Or the Eagles or the Band. The Band are way more one song that made it what it is. Rey: The beauty of it is that we've never needed a producer; we're all pretty objective. We are always criticizing each other, but in a good way. If someone comes to the table with a song and it's crap, then it's crap. We won't even attempt it. It is a work relationship, partnered with something of a brotherhood. We can say all sorts of things to each other then wake up the next day and give each other a hug. (Linus)
The John Henrys - Sweet As The Grain (4 Stars)
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Ask six people what Roots/Americana is all about and there is a fair chance you’ll get seven answers...Ask six people what Roots/Americana is all about and there is a fair chance you’ll get seven answers or more. The genre contains so many different elements of the music that has been gestating in the US and if truth be told there really is no single description that holds the whole truth.
The John Henrys definitely sit in the Roots vein, many of them in fact, and they happily plunder so many styles and forms that they could almost be a Roots jukebox on their own. But what makes them different from a lot of the other dilettante visitors to the form is that they actually play with a huge amount of talent and the 'homages’ to Neil Young and The Byrds and The Eagles and The Band are quite superb in their own right – they even manage to tip the hat to Nervous Norvus at one point and huge kudos for that. There are twelve songs on this collection and I wouldn’t say that there is a single one that pushes me to the 'Skip’ button on the CD player. From the title song which is a gorgeous a piece of country as I’ve heard in yonks and through the Neil Young-esque 'Lost In The Canyon’ and on to 'Ain’t Gonna Drink No More’ – as silly as it sounds – or 'Eldorado’ and the gobsmackingly fine 'Truth Be Told (Inez)’ this is real quality.
Rey Sabatin Jr’s guitar playing is superb and Steve Tatone’s keyboard skills give a real extra dimension to the music.
The strength in Roots at the moment is incredible with bands like OCMS, Gill Landry, the Deadstring Brothers and Britain’s own Hey Negrita giving a huge variety of styles and belt of talent – The John Henrys are supping at the same table and I cannot think of any reason they should bow to the others. Canada rools ok?
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This Canadian four piece are rock as much as roots, from an instantly addictive opening title track ...This Canadian four piece are rock as much as roots, from an instantly addictive opening title track - strong twangy voice, ringing guitars, the tone somewhere between Burrito Brothers and The Sadies - to closer Golden Train. When they slow to midtempo country rock, they're really something - check out Angel and the dazzling Truth Be Told.
The John Henrys Mount Up And Ride Into The US
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The John Henrys aren't your conventional Americana/alt-country act. That is, of course, because they...The John Henrys aren't your conventional Americana/alt-country act. That is, of course, because they are Canadian. But that detail doesn't discredit the band-remember: Neil Young and Hank Snow are two of the most notable names in country music, and both hail from Canada.
On Sweet As Grain, The John Henrys dispel any notion that Canadian roots do anything to damage the integrity of country music. The album became #1 on iTunes Canada Roots Music the week of release, and #1 on the Exclaim/Earshot National Campus and Community Radio Folk Roots chart. Now, the album's US release is expected to generate similar results and deliver the much-talked-about band to the forefront of the Americana/Country/Roots scene in the US.
The John Henrys are bringing their traveling show to Texas later this month.
The John Henrys On Tour:
06/18 London, Ontario The London Music Club
06/19 Kitchener, Ontario The Boathouse
06/20 Toronto, Ontario The Horseshoe Tavern
06/26 Corpus Christie, TX Jammin Concert Series
06/27 Austin, TX Waterloo Ice House
06/28 San Antonio, TX Roots Music Assoc. Conf.
06/29 Austin, TX Iguana Grill
07/01 Nashville, TN Cafe Coco
07/04 Hamilton, Ontario The Pepper Jack
07/05 Toronto, Ontario Gladstone Hotel
07/08 Ottawa, Ontario Ottawa Blues Fest
10/04 Greenwood, AL One Music Festival
Five guys ..create magic *****
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Five guys ..create magic. Legendary John Henry was an American folk hero known for his steel -dri...Five guys ..create magic.
Legendary John Henry was an American folk hero known for his steel -driving prowess on the railroads. Big guy, from all accounts.
This has nothing to do with the John Henrys whatsoever, but, much like his apparent physical strength; this band has plenty of muscle in their songwriting department.
This mercurial bunch su'no how to bring country into the 21st century, with a dazzling array of hoedown pulses and genu-iiiii-ne Americana.
They masterfully roll out their thing following the great American story telling tradition that starts with lush pedal steel drips on the yearningly beautiful Sweet As The Grain, a steady foot-tapping mid-paced ballad, oh and, that glorious twanging guitar, reminiscent of early Eagles.
Then they get lost in the canyon, which takes another pace back, with rolling Hammond organ and strummed acoustic. Just about half way, it turns into a whopping reverbed electric guitar solo, cooling off to a wonderful and melodic state - brilliant.
Wah Wah intro for Padawadamie, precursors a lightweight rocker.
It's the kind of thing Bon Jovi did some years ago, without the commercial edge - remember genu-iiii-ne?
And, now enter Ain't Gonna Drink No More. It's the kind of song - pulsating rock-a-billy shuffle you'd expect from a guy who's in total denial after a night on the tiles, with the banjo having a field day - a real hangover!
Later they have a ball with no-frills No More Rock N Roll, and there's a brilliant Duane Eddy-like guitar riff.
The swaggering Thought Yourself Lucky continues the fun with a Beatles-like rock'n'roll blast. They even get into reflective mood for the chugging and sweet New Years though Jewel in the crown is the Americana gorgeous ballad Truth Be Told where they showcase, and showboat, their collective harmonies a la Eagles.
By now they're excelling themselves to the point of cocksure, so country rocker Angel sees them in full flow, with Rey Sabatin Jr. singing at lilting his best.
Playful rocker Ugly Town is great, with the JH's on full throttle as they roll straight into belting Golden Train without showing the join, well almost .
File under : Fabulous y'all.
***** (5 Stars)
MAVERICK January 2009
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A tasty offering of alt. country tinged with vintage country-rock influences. Ontario, Ca... A tasty offering of alt. country tinged with vintage country-rock influences.
Ontario, Canada five-piece the John Henrys get to bring it all together in a refreshing and listener friendly fashion. I say listener friendly due to the fact that not all alt. country is that way, and to me quite often an acquired taste. Bolstered by hints of Wilco, Sun Volt and the Jayhawks, coupled with a country-rock vibe of old ---Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Bros especially come to mind--- such is the liberal use of lap steel and heart-tugging vocals on some cuts.
When captured at their best, the JH Band is a real joy. Such occasions include the cheerful, rapid, banjo/ mandolin aided "Ain't Gonna Drink No More", and the masterful title cut. Produced by the band, they ease through the programme of songs all written by the band--- Rey Sabatin Jr, Steve Tatone, Doug Gouthro, Geoff Ward and Darryl Quinlan--- that sees them shuffle nicely through "Truth Be Told"(Inez) and retrace the steps of a vintage era on "No More Rock N Roll" in an uninhibited, joyful gospel-ish fashion. Though most are quite easy to take it's the keenly guitar driven "Golden Train", and with organ, piano and twangy guitar to the fore "Angel" that wings its way home in outstanding fashion.
The John Henrys Quotes
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QUOTES - THE JOHN HENRYS “Though these good ol' boys have the country-rock idiom down to a T, t...QUOTES - THE JOHN HENRYS
“Though these good ol' boys have the country-rock idiom down to a T, their material isn't restricted only to that genre, and stretches out to give several tracks a '60s garage-band feel…it's clean and pristine sounding and the song tracking has a good flow. So far, these guys are definitely my top Canadian discovery of the year”. - HOUR.CA, Martin Siberok
“honest, well-executed and from the heart” - Hamilton Spectator, Graham Rockingham
“From the country fare of The Byrds and the Stones to The Flying Burrito Brothers and Waylon Jennings, Ottawa's The John Henrys wear their influences proudly and they wear them damn well. That's why Sweet As The Grain is such a gas from start to finish.” - Calgary Herald
"Loud, powerful, and thoughtfully mixed. Sounds good. Like Tom Petty, The Kinks, Matt Mays, and Stompin' Tom" - Mary Beth Carty, Penguin Eggs
“The John Henrys are poised to become a force within the Canadian roots music scene.” - Jason Schnieder, Exclaim!
“The Ottawa group has the cosmic country-rock sounds of Gram Parsons-era Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers down to a science. Sweet little bits of heartache underneath pedal steel and raucous barroom sing-alongs… what’s not to love?” - iTunes
“I like the album. I hear a Gram Parsons meets Neil Young meets Blue Rodeo thing goin' on successfully bridging the gap between the late 60's and NOW!” - Bruce Leperre, Program/Music Director, 730 CKDM
“Their music emerges from rich traditions, but the John Henrys landscape is their own. They straddle the divide between sweet country and 60’s R&B, and they do it in their own distinct way.” - CBC Radio 3
"If Gram Parsons, Neil Young, The Band and Otis Redding had an orgy...You might get something like this." - Chart Magazine
“The John Henrys' Sweet as the Grain is a rootsy masterpiece.” - Allan Wigney - Ottawa Sun
“A twangy twist feel good vibe.” - Tim Perlich - Now Magazine
“The John Henrys aren’t your conventional Americana / alt-country act. That is, of course, because they are Canadian. But that detail doesn’t discredit the band—remember: Neil Young and Hank Snow are two of the most notable names in country music, and both hail from Canada.” - ALTSounds.com
“The John Henrys are something special. Their songs are country fried, golden goodness but they surprise you with the surprising edge the band leaves on, almost like the burn that shows up after a swig of even the smoothest whiskey. They paint pictures with golds and pinks and float along like a stream.” - HEROHILL.com
“Grain is a record that carves its own path while casting reverent glances toward The Flying Burrito Brothers, Uncle Tupelo, The Band, and a host of others.” - Lintcoat.com
So far, these guys are definitely my top Canadian discovery of the year. - Martin Siberok, Ottawa Xpress
Sweet as the Grain - The John Henrys Album Review ****
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**** Like many who have set out to explore the strange world of Cosmic American Music before them...****
Like many who have set out to explore the strange world of Cosmic American Music before them, the John Henry's share a perspective with Neil Young and most of The Band as well as the likes of Burton Cummings and ..er...Bryan Adams. Namely, not being very American.
While their shirts may be Nudie and their name may be swiped from a legendary figure of US folklore, the John Henry's are as Canadian as Terence and Phillip. So what's it all aboot?
It's all aboot the songs. 'Sweet as the Grain' is their first internationally distributed album and it's a down home cracker. Released on their own 9lb records (see what they did there....John Henry?...never mind) the record is a fine set of country tinged soul'n'roll with a smattering of dirty blues to mix things up.
The Band. No escaping this - the John Henry's are clearly fans (even the photos on the inside sleeve resemble those on 'Rock of Ages', The Band's 72 live set). While they lack the harmonies and maybe the rootsiness of a Levon Helm character, there's certainly some seriously good song-writing going on here.
Chief Henry wordsmith Rey Sabatin seems to be a man who is as comfortable with a gorgeous country ballad as a balls out, four letter stomper. 'Sweet as the Grain', the title track is a particularly sublime lapsteel led tune, reminiscent of something off Workingman's Dead while 'Truth Be Told' could have easily have been polished up and included on the Easy Rider soundtrack - a jaw droppingly pretty guitar lick melting into a widescreen slice of organ. Imagine a desert sunset and you're not far off.
Clearly, there's a major talent at work here. They harness all manner of instruments from banjo, harp, mandolin, organ and lapsteel and put them to good effect - all too often bands simply throw in a banjo or steel to prove how authentic they are without utilising the real potential of the instrument. Not so the John Henry's.
There are also a number of talented songwriters at work within the group - along with Sabatin, Steve Tatone, Doug Gouthro and Darryl Quinlan also receive credits for tunes. This is another Band comparison - check out the credits to Big Pink - it was only the later albums that became dominated by Robbie Robbertson.
For a band to open their international account with a debut as accomplished as this is bodes extremely well for the future. There are some truly beautiful moments on this glorious record and it's going to be fabulous journey seeing how these guys develop. Let's just hope they don't dance their Last Waltz too soon.
**** (4 Stars)
- Matt Fancy
The John Henrys - A Rollicking Romp in the Country
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The John Henry's can't wait to get on the road. The band is getting ready to tour in support of thei...The John Henry's can't wait to get on the road. The band is getting ready to tour in support of their sophomore album Sweet as Grain. The follow up to the band's self-titled 2004 debut, Sweet as Grain, is a rollicking, frolicking good time filled with country licks and pure songwriting.
In 2004, after the release of the debut, the John Henry's played live shows supporting the record and obtained a following in Ottawa, their hometown. Having topped the charts at Ottawa's main campus radio station (CKCU), the band received regular playing time on local radio and was invited to play Canada's top music festivals, including Canadian Music Week and North by North East. Known for their a lively live show, the John Henry's have shared the stage with some of their favorites contemporaries, such as The Sadies, Cuff the Duke, The Golden Dogs and Elliot Brood.
When it came time to for album number two, the band really wanted to feel at home and have some control over the recording process. "This record was low maintenance. Our rehearsing studio was at home and we just rolled out of bed and made it happen," says lead vocalist Rey Sabatin. "Our first record was great fun, recorded in Ottawa at the Little Bullhorn studios, but this time, if felt different and easier."
Sweet as Grain is a little new for the John Henry's. Finally comfortable with a successful lineup, Sabatin is really excited about the songwriting on this album. Although he admits to usually starting the writing process on his own, the overall sound of Sweet as Grain is credited to "four other great songwriters in the room." The others are Doug Gouthro on guitar, Darryl Quinlan on bass, Geoff Ward on drums and the multi-talented Steve Tatone.
Sweet as Grain represents a new confidence in the John Henry's. That indelible live sound is apparent in the recording, funded by playing to their faithful fan base in Ottawa. With an energetic sound that carries over each of the 14 tracks, these songs are meant to be performed live in front of a throbbing audience.
"I am particularly proud of the first track, ‘Truth Be Told,'" says Sabatin. "I also love ‘Lost in the Canyon'; it is one of our favorite songs to perform and was one of my favorites to write and record."
And Sabatin should be proud. "Truth Be Told" is a gorgeous song full of mandolin and banjo, arguably the strongest track on the album. Beautiful both lyrically and in composition, "Truth Be Told" tells a bittersweet love story, conveying as much through the music as the lyrics: "Truth be told, I was a puppet on her strings/ Truth be said, I'd be better left for dead/ and she'd be better of without me/ The lies I've sold almost everyday/ in these hours we're gonna let them slip away."
Reminiscent of alt-country gods Uncle Tupelo and Whiskey Town, the John Henry's are getting it right. And "Lost in the Canyon" seals the deal. It is a standout track that sounds a little like Tom Petty with intense guitar and a bluesy, no-bullshit rhythm that does not quit. "Come on little darling I put the top down just for the ride/ We'll push straight out of the city. And you can meet me on the other side/ And if we don't make it, we can say we tried/ I'm going up to the cabin on the river/ Gotta get this lonely heart delivered."
When asked who influenced the John Henry's widely varied sound, Sabatin pushed back. "You tell me," he said. "Obviously, we listen to a lot of old R&B, like Motown, and country music is important to us. We're also very into the roots scene. But you tell me what you hear."
I hear everything in this record, from the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers to Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks and Old 97's. I really enjoy Sabatin's voice and admire how he can sound soothing and then immediately gritty. The band also has a very tight sound, managing to bypass the overproduced sound of some of today's top country artists.
Sweet as Grain is already enjoying some critical success, but the album has yet to be fully road-tested. The John Henry's hit the road after playing in Toronto and head to U.S. cities Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and beautiful Buffalo, N.Y. "We love playing live," Sabatin admits. "We are known for a really energetic show and are excited about heading to the States for the first time."
Don't miss the album that the Ottawa Sun calls "[A] glorious romp through country lanes with the occasional detour into the garage." Even though you can't pick up Sweet as Grain until March 25, you can check out the band right now at http://www.thejohnhenrys.com or www.myspace.com/thejohnhenrys. | Raymee Holshouser
You can catch the John Henry's at PLAYBACK:stl New Music Tuesdays at Cicero's Feb. 26 at 9 p.m. with Ten High, Fuller and Aaron Mitchum. Tickets are $5 ($8 if you are under 21) and doors open at 8:30 p.m.
The John Henrys Get Lost In The Canyon While Finding Their Niche
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The John Henrys The next few months of Rey Sabatin's life will include gigs, gigs, more g...
The John Henrys
The next few months of Rey Sabatin's life will include gigs, gigs, more gigs... and ribs somewhere in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sabatin and his alt.country band The John Henrys are preparing to tour Canada and the southern U.S. and will head as far south as Corpus Christi, Texas. Sabatin says he's looking forward to
journeying to where some of his major musical influences came from.
"Honestly, just being a music fan since I was like, five... I won't lie, I've
glorified it a tad and I kind of want to be down there and see what it's all
about," Sabatin says.
The last few years have been full of excitement for The John Henrys, who
also include Steve Tatone (keyboards, guitar, lap steel, vocals), Doug
Gouthro (guitar, vocals), Darryl Quinlan (bass) and Geoff Ward (drums).
Sabatin formed the band in 2003 after he moved to Ottawa from Toronto.
They recorded their self-titled debut album, which is now out of print, with
Ottawa producer Dave Draves (Howe Gelb, Gentleman Reg). The disc
shot to the top of the chart at Carleton University's CKCU radio station after
it was released in 2004. Their sophomore disc, Sweet As The Grain, was
originally released on a limited basis in 2006, but was given wider
distribution two months ago.
Sweet As The Grain's material varies greatly from beginning to end. The
John Henrys explore Blue Rodeo's rootsy territory on the opening title
track, move through Hank Williams III-inspired cheeky country stomps on
"Padawadamie" and "Ain't Gonna Drink No More," and end with garage
rock meets Elvis Costello on a country kick with "Ugly Town."
"Sweet As The Grain... was really just kind of us exploring, trying to figure
out what direction we're going to take everything," Sabatin says. "You can
hear us trying to figure out our best spot."
Sabatin says that "best spot" is "Lost In The Canyon," which he calls the
record's "pinnacle." The track is a sprawling, expansive alt.country tune
featuring jammy solos akin to what's found on Ryan Adams' Cold Roses or
The Band's Music From Big Pink. Sabatin says The John Henrys' third
release, which he hopes will be out by September, will sound more like
"Lost In The Canyon" than any of the other songs on Sweet As The Grain.
Sabatin is quick to state that The John Henrys are "not an indie band" and
that their biggest challenge has been finding their place in Ottawa's
notoriously indie and punk-centric music scene. The John Henrys' shows
draw everyone from underage kids who've snuck in to 60-year-old roots
music enthusiasts. While Sabatin recognizes it's a good thing to appeal to
everyone, he says it can be quite "disheartening" when trying to figure out
one's place in a music scene. This is compounded by some of the band's
material, which can make it difficult to find people with whom to play shows.
"Niches belong to bands that only appeal to a certain age group and stuff
like that... But before we had a publicist or anyone pushing the album, just
trying to figure out what we're supposed to do was hard and disheartening
because we all feel and will always feel that we're sitting on something
that's good, that can go mainstream and that doesn't have to lose
credibility," says Sabatin.
Sabatin recognizes this is part of the band's evolution and he's looking
forward to the band's Canadian dates and that previously mentioned jaunt
south of the border. While he's quick to say he loves playing in Ottawa,
Sabatin finds things a bit different when touring.
"I think when you play your hometown, everyone knows exactly what to
expect. But when you go out of town, you feel appreciated a little bit more, for sure."
Q! Magazine **** Review
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The John Henrys Sweet As The Grain **** (4 stars) Laid-back ballads and thigh-slapping outlaw dri...The John Henrys
Sweet As The Grain
**** (4 stars)
Laid-back ballads and thigh-slapping outlaw drinking songs make up make up most of the 12 tracks on the Ottawa alt-country five-piece's debut, but the occasional curveball is thrown in too, such as Thought Yourself Lucky's hint of 60's garage rock. Proof that there's still originality in a genre too often mired in Neil Young and Gram Parsons Facsimilies
- Andy Fyfe
A mix of the bands originals, adjusted to the sound of the event - more acoustic/rootsy country for folk festivals, and more guitars for the rock rooms.
PDF RiderJohn Henrys Technical Rider
There are no upcoming dates at this time.