The Henrys
Gig Seeker Pro

The Henrys

Band Americana


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"The Henrys reviews"


Among all the infectious noise being made by acoustic slide guitar players in recent times, Toronto kona player Don Rooke and his ensemble of like-minded abstract sound architects stand out on their fourth album as the high-minded intellectuals in their class, the quiet scientists scratching away at the borders of the folk/time continuum while the other guys are staging a hootenanny. "Old instruments, new sounds" is the way Rooke describes what The Henrys do - they use sophisticated recording and playing techniques and elaborate audio processes to extract from a resonator guitar and other plucked acoustic instruments the harmonics, overtones and oblique noises behind the rustic notes to create landscapes that are astonishingly romantic, frightening, sexual, spiritual - and quite beautiful. Brave new music.

-Toronto Star review by Greg Quill, December 14, 2002


The Henrys have never been a band keen to sacrifice quality for quantity. Centred on the compelling fretwork of bandleader Don Rooke, the enigmatic septet has released four albums since 1994's excellent debut Puerto Angel. It's been more than enough to secure The Henrys a place as one of Canada's most intriguing ensembles. The long-awaited followup to 1998's Desert Cure, Joyous Porous again delivers the goods in grand fashion: the haunting slide of Rooke's National Steel darts in and out of the cinematic, dream-like instrumentals like sharp bursts of essential dialogue - always refined, soulful and to the point. The Henrys all-inclusive sound - a flickering fusion of languid blues, darting jazz, ambient musings and fragmented folk - is a subtle, organic thing of beauty.

-Ottawa XPress, review by Steve Baylin

Music became a thing when the first recording was made, and music ever since has tended to become more thing-like and less situational. A studio recording that feels like a situation is truly a rare entity, and eventful in the fullest sense of the word.Music as situation requires rules, and a shared approach, but also demands enough freedom for sounds to find their way to the places where they need to be. In a word, it needs to be porous, and that's a joyous state indeed on the best tracks of this fourth album from the Toronto-based ensemble The Henrys.

Don Rooke, the group's main writer and lead guitarist, has a soft spot for front-parlour roots music. But he's equally drawn to a kind of cool abstraction that creeps up on his old-seeming tunes, and subjects them to an analytic, postnostalgic fondling.

The rough outlines of the method will be familiar to anyone who has heard a few Bill Frisell records, though the tone and the temper are quite different. Frisell mainly plays electrics, but Rooke's core instruments in The Henrys are the kona, the Weissenborn and the National Steel. These are all vintage acoustic guitars, and they provide him with a range of throaty, atmospheric sounds, and the basis for a meditative slide style. The Henrys love thick natural sounds like those of the pump organ that clacks and surges at the start of the title tune, and juicy old electronics such as the Mellotron, the Theremin, and the Arp synthesizer.

The density of the timbres allows for a kind of short-hand that suits the group's brainy, yet sensual, style. With just a few chords on the Weissenborn, Rooke can open a deep blues space in VF61,the opening track, then follow the groove into a strange pentatonic octave unison with bassist David Piltch, while trumpeter Michael White peppers the scene with distant aphorisms. It takes only a few acid guitar chords and a hustling rhythm line to set the stage for the drawling bluesy arioso that Mary Margaret O'Hara drops into One Body. This track feels like the antithesis of the neatly made studio number, though only on the groove-based Li'l Ms Demeanor did O'Hara (who contributes to six tracks in all) apparently wing it straight to tape.

There are two covers: Maria Elena,a genuinely old and sentimental tune from the thirties, and Charles Mingus's Goodbye Porkpie Hat,in a version so brilliantly understated as to make virtually every note a poem. Almost everything here works on first hearing, and works even better after that.

Globe and Mail, Robert Everett-Green


The Henrys are at it again. And it's glorious.

In a world full of wannabe slide people and instrumental crapola, Don Rooke and company have again distinguished themselves as one of the most outstanding and original outfits we've ever heard.

Why is it so hard to find music this original? Because it takes talent, first of all, and because it's damn hard to make a living when you're this musically fearless. God bless the Toronto Arts Council (and the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts), what a civilized country that is. I swear, half of the great music I hear anymore is coming from Canada.

"Recorded at Cellars and Spare Bedrooms, - various, as listed


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


Feeling a bit camera shy


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.