The Henrys

The Henrys


Modern roots, instrumental. Weissenborn (acoustic slide) guitar, rhythm section, keys or trumpet. Conch shell etc. Mixes folk w other influences.


The Henrys is a Toronto-based, nearly instrumental quartet. Their music features the sound of an antique slide guitar called a Kona (and other slide guitars), along with the usual stuff - conch shell, quarter-tone trumpet, chordette, drums played with a root, sonar zombie, steel drums. Joyous Porous is their fourth release. It joins three other internationally acclaimed CDs: Puerto Angel (1994), Chasing Grace (1996) and Desert Cure (1998), and a solo CD, Atlas Travel, by the band's leader. There is a new CD in the third trimester of gestation. It appears to be twins.

The band has been performing for 12 years, with concerts around the world, including the Sweetwaters festival in New Zealand, the North Sea festival in Holland, SXSW in Austin, Texas, Toronto's Harbourfront Centre (including a duet with east Indian slide phenomenon V.M. Bhatt), and many others. 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 mostly 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.


5 CDs:
Puerto Angel
Chasing Grace
Desert Cure
Joyous Porous
Atlas Travel

Set List

no covers, no list, all original, any length