FAME Review of [Folk 2.0]

Here’s a new review of [Folk 2.0] posted today to FAME (Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange)

Folk Cover

[Folk 2.0]
Phil Henry

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.

When Phil Henry recorded the surprising No Place Like Here in 2005, he pulled the cord on twelve fine originals and placed his name on the list of musicians to watch. With the release of this year’s [Folk 2.0], he seems to say “watch this” as he and his superb band work their way through five folk songs steeped in tradition. The thing is, he tosses tradition aside and records them as he sees fit; thus the CD subtitle, An untraditional look at traditional folk music.

Incredibly upbeat, the band folds dawg jazz into the folk of “Shady Grove” and makes it a whole new though recognizable song. Henry’s vocals are spot on and the band’s beat gives Will Patton excellent bedrock on which to lay his mandolin riffs. Indeed, the musicianship all-around carries this way beyond the original folk, the players feeding off of one another until they hit a higher level. Think Hot Rize or Nickel Creek when the bluegrass bug bites.

Henry takes the staid “Blow the Candles Out” into the realm of ’70s R&B and gives saxman Wayne Davison a chance to market his wares. Solid pop/jazz flows from his horn, reminiscent of the horn work popularized in the seventies in various fusion bands. Again, the band drives the beat home.

The a cappella “Kilkelly, Ireland” is a stunner, the letters of an Irish mother to her son put to music. Henry steps back and works his voice seamlessly into the chorus which sounds as Irish as Americans can make it without going over the top.

Giving “Barbara Allen” a bit of syncopated beat and rocking it up may not sound good in the head, but, surprisingly, it works. Henry has the voice to carry the vocals, the band has the chops and the break, with it’s amped electric guitar and reverb on the voice, is A-1.

Purists will cringe when they hear Henry’s arrangement of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” The thing about purists, though, is that they have no sense of adventure. Henry gets very adventurous here, taking another staid traditional song through the mill. This could have fit anywhere on No Place Like Here, pop sax and upbeat rhythm flowing smoothly.

This EP is a huge step forward for Henry in terms of credibility. His arrangements are masterful and he has taken an idea which could have gone horribly wrong to the right places. The production and musicianship could not have been better and these boys, they can sing, among so many other things.

Track List:

* Shady Grove
* Blow the Candles Out
* Kilkelly, Ireland
* Barbara Allen
* Man of Constant Sorrow


I thought I should share this review from the Folk and Acoustic Music Excange (FAME) of No Place Like Here:

No Place Like Here

No Place Like Here
Phil Henry

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.

This ain’t folk, folks, even though it says so right there on the rib of No Place Like Here. It is pure upbeat pop rock and if artists like James Taylor, Elton John, Kenny Loggins and even the lesser known but just as viable Richard Torrance or Stu Nunnery wind your clock, Phil Henry should well be worth a listen. Blessed with a James Taylor-textured voice and an unerring sense of rhythm’s value to music as an upper, Henry lays down twelve exceptional tracks which are so much fun, you’ll be putting this on while you dust furniture and do the dishes because there is nothing which takes away drudgery better than good positive music.

Henry is more than just positive, though. He is an adventure in music. Simple, seemingly straight ahead rock songs are layered so that successive listens uncover something new each time through, be it a short guitar riff or a shift in rhythm beneath the dominant riff or maybe stacked background harmonies which take effort to catch. Surprises pepper track after track and the end result is that the songs evolve rather than age.

Henry does, indeed, know his way around a song. From the fresh rhythms of “Escape,” in which a boy wavers while shaking the dust of the old hometown from his boots, to the beautifully choreographed vocal chorus which caps off “Winds of Lake Erie,” he shows it. “Concrete and Tile” sets a light, choogling pace which gets the foot tapping and head bobbing, the combined drums of Sean Fitzpatrick and congas of Michael McCloskey driving a really fine song to the brink by the end, and the superb vocal arrangement is pure icing on the cake. The Harry Chapin-like “Broken” is a bit softer than most tracks here, but is also an ear-catcher, thanks to Henry’s fine vocals and Chris Outcalt, who has the magic touch on the sax. Slipping a simple, short solo guitar rendition of “Over the Rainbow” before picking right up with the beginning strains of “No Place Like Here” is a great creative stroke. And “No Place Like Here” has magical background harmonies reminiscent of one of 1970’s Portland, Oregon’s failed (though not for lack of talent or music) entries into the rock marketplace, Sand. A foot race through the streets of the old hometown powers the aura behind “Keep Up,” a remembrance of the good old days amidst today’s crumbling world. “Here and Now” has a Jimmy Buffet flavor to it and Henry brings in his grade schoolers for a little Na-Na-Na-Na background chorus and it works! Not only that, he lists each voice by name, a thrill for any kid.

“Pen and Paper” is an anomaly on the CD and while it is quite unlike anything else, its inclusion is a big plus. Sounding more like it was written for the stage than for rock band, it showcases Henry’s obvious talent as songwriter. Sharing vocals with Nelson Shapiro, Henry’s persona soars and, despite the occasional missed note, it is a real highlight. In the mind’s ear, one can almost see it being performed in the context of musical theater. Perhaps it is a feeler for Henry’s next big musical project?

Once again, you don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. Phil Henry’s music is available for sampling at CD Baby. If you’re at all interested, you should stop by for a quick hearing. When you do, use headphones and crank it up. The music doesn’t get any better but it sure feels good.

Is Phil a Conservative Republican?!

Right Wing Folk Song Cover

Is Phil a Conservative Republican?!


Recently, I did a gig with my good friends Kate Blain and Gary Moon at a great venue in the NY Capitol Region. It was a folk coffeehouse/dinner kind of gig, all acoustic, trading songs, as we do for our “Detour” gigs…

Gary played his new tune, “Eyes Wide Open,” which is rather critical of the Bush administration. (And a damn fine song, I might add. My favorite of his newest batch of songs.) After intermission, a table of listeners stood up and left, telling the owner that they did not like the political slant of the music.

So, what did people expect, if they come to a FOLK show? As songwriters, we’re all in debt to the greats who came before us- Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie… All of whom looked at the problems in the world- both political and personal- and wrote songs to combat them.

Someone joked that night, “Did they expect Right-Wing Conservative folk music?!”

So, here it is, “The Right-Wing Conservative-Republican Folk Song (God Bless The FOX TV News)”.

It may be a little sarcastic in tone…

It’s on the MUSIC page.