The Henrys
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The Henrys

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Well, it must be said: you never know what to
expect from The Henrys. Is This Tomorrow
comes as another pleasant auditory surprise,
seven years after their last CD. The work of
Toronto songwriter and multi-instrumentalist don
Rooke, the previous four Henrys discs were
primarily instrumental with minimal but sublime
singing. The biggest change this time out is the
vocal presence on 12 of the 15 songs by Mary
Margaret O'Hara, Martina Sorbara and Becca
Stevens.

Rooke contributes sultry and sweet guitars, and
has again assembled a stalwart cast of helpers
such as Hugh Marsh, John Sheard, Kirk Elliott,
Victor Bateman and John Dymond to flesh out
his compositions. All do so with subtle artistry
and dream-like restraint.

A DVD is included that features another hour of
music synced with gorgeous photographs. It is
tranquility personified and very easy on both the
eye and the ear.

Is This Tomorrow is a lovely, lovely piece of
work from a Canadian master.

Les Siemieniuk, Penguin Eggs - Penguin Eggs


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 - Toronto Star (newspaper)


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," Joyous Porous finds our sonic
heroes in outrageous form. As you might
have gathered from our previous review of
this stellar band, The Henrys are essentially
comprised of slide master Don Rooke (yo!),
trumpetist Michael White, and bassist David
Piltch. The unbelievable guest melodies and
vocals of Mary Margaret O'Hara send chills
right up my spine every time, Lord Almighty!

The compositions are as good as the
playing is, and that's saying an awful lot. On
top of that, the renditions of Charles Mingus'
"Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and the 30s classic
"Maria Elena" are right outta this frickin
world. These folks are deeply whacked and
profoundly talented.

I'm not kidding. Get this album, it will help
you open up your mind and your spirit. Most
records today will not do that. They're
conceived with too many parameters and
expectations in mind. I don't get the
impression here that there's anything
necessarily hanging in the balance of the
CD's acceptance, and the unique beauty of
the work is, on the other hand, unmistakable.

Don Rooke's tone on the kona makes me
wanna cry, it's so pure. It's an antique
instrument from the 20s made of koa wood
and played with a steel bar. I love The
Henrys, and wish there were more groups
like them around. Instead of all these
knuckleheads.

PureMusic, Frank Goodman, October 2002 - Pure Music (Nashville)


The third disc from this mostly
instrumental Toronto combo firmly
establishes Don Rooke as one of
acoustic guitar's greatest unsung
heroes. Playing lap-style slide on
historic Weissenborn and Kona guitars,
he alternately evokes the smooth
perfection of Jerry Douglas, the languid
soul of Ry Cooder, and the dreamtime
whimsy of Bill Frisell. But such
comparisons are mere reference points
- Rooke is a startling original who
seems constitutionally incapable of
resorting to slide cliches. His tone is
drop-dead gorgeous, his technique
mirror-smooth, yet he has a
mischievous chromatic streak that
keeps things from getting too
comfortable. The other musicians are
formidable too, especially Monte
Horton, whose keening electric work is
a perfect counterweight for
mellow-toned Rooke. Their rhythm
section gravitates toward easy,
Caribbean-flavoured grooves, but they,
too, spike the punch with piquant
dissonance - is there such a thing as
"tropical noir"? Fretwork of the first
order, well worth seeking out. "

-Guitar Player, review by Joe Gore,
November 1998 - Guitar Player Magazine


How can Toronto's finest lounge-lizard
instrumental band follow up last year's debut,
"Puerto Angel"? Simple - with an album that
stretches their musical adeptness and
boundaries still further...Plenty more of the
sinuous slide guitars and torque-wrench tight
rhythms that are easy to listen to but a long, long
way from Easy Listening...The compositions
and playing are impeccable...Make this one of
your essential albums."

-Folk Roots Magazine, U.K., Ian Kearey - fRoots (UK)


Discography

Is This Tomorrow (2009)*
Joyous Porous (2003)
Desert Cure (1998)
Chasing Grace (1996)
Puerto Angel (1994)

*frequent play on CBC radio, and top 10 for 2009 for radio show 'The Signal" (CBC, national)

Photos

Bio

'Landscapes that are astonishingly romantic,
frightening, sexual, spiritual - and quite beautiful. Brave
new music.'
---------------
The Henrys is a Toronto-based 'nearly-instrumental'
group that performs as a quartet (Don Rooke, Michelle
Willis, Mark Mariash, Andrew Downing), but records
with a larger stable of players. Led by Don Rooke,
since 1990 the band's goal has always been to
compose, record and perform original music that has
no obvious genre, but draws on a variety of styles in an
original, identifiable way. In the words of Toronto Star
reviewer Greg Quill:

'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. 'Old instruments,
new sounds' is the way Rooke describes what The
Henrys do - they 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.'

The music features the sound of an antique slide guitar
called the kona (and other slide guitars). Manufactured
out of Hawaiian koa wood in California in the 1920s, the
kona has a rare tonal purity. It's played slide style, flat,
with a small steel bar. Mixed with vocals (Mary Margaret
O'Hara, Becca Stevens and others), organ, bass and
drums - and often unusual elements: conch shell,
quarter-tone trumpet, pump organ, chordette, odd
percussion pieces, sonar zombie, steel drums - the
sound of the band has been defined and refined over
the years.

The Henrys have been performing (on and off) for
almost 20 years, with concerts around the world.
They've played at the Sweetwaters festival in New
Zealand, the North Sea Festival in Holland, SXSW in
Austin, Luminato and Harbourfront Centre in Toronto,
the Vancouver and Calgary Folk Festivals, and many
other locations. They headlined at NYC's famous
Bottom Line in 1998. It is the eclectic nature of the
music that makes them equally at home in folk, jazz
and indie/alternative venues.

The group's latest CD, Is This Tomorrow, is their fifth. It
joins four other internationally acclaimed recordings:
Puerto Angel (1994), Chasing Grace (1996), Desert Cure
(1998), and Joyous Porous (2002), as well as a solo CD,
Atlas Travel, by the band's leader.

The 1994 independent Canadian release of the first
disc, Puerto Angel, led to international exposure. 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
described it as, "classic Americana. Wonderfully
arranged, sharply talented and springing from the
sheer joy of playing. Something extraordinary.'

Live review:

The elusive Henrys make a Joyous appearance

By ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN

Friday, December 6, 2002

The Henrys Hugh's Room in Toronto on Wednesday

If there's one thing the Henrys have learned about show
business, it's that you should always leave 'em wanting
more. The elusive Toronto band accomplishes this in the
easiest possible way, by hardly ever playing in public.

A new album is almost the only thing guaranteed to get
them on stage. Even then, the Henrys do not rush to meet
their public: Wednesday's CD-release show took place
four months after Joyous Porous, the band's fourth
album, came into the world.

Pent-up demand filled the tiered and tabled space of
Hugh's Room. By the end of the set, you could almost
hear the thought in most minds: "Why don't you guys do
this more often?"

The Henrys' distinctive sound is rooted in leader Don
Rooke's kona guitar, from which he can nurse everything
from a voice-like slide tone to something as dry and
articulate as a kalimba. He's a speculative kind of
musician, fond of abstract ways of looking at small riffs or
old-sounding tunes. His partners share his thoughtful,
follow-your-nose approach, though in all other ways
they're as independent as cats.

Jorn Andersen's drumming, like all good percussion,
supplied a grid for everyone to work with, but also shot
out a stream of witty annotations, buffing the beat smooth
or nailing it with a sharp whack. Like a classical actor,
Andersen prefers clear diction to noise and commotion,
which meant a miserly hand with the cymbals and a
mostly bone-dry tip to his stick.

Rob Gusevs's organ padded around on soft paws all
night, curling through the music so subtly that you almost
didn't notice how neatly it balanced things out. John
Dymond's bass came to the fore in a fine solo late in the
set, elsewhere partnering Rooke's melodic excursions
without missing a step