Jim Henry, |
(Signature Sounds, 1999)
As I was listening to The Wayback, I kept glancing at the copyright date on the CD case to make sure this album was recorded in 1999 rather than 1979. The reason is that the album sounds like those old time country/blues albums released in the '70s by acts such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and others. But am I complaining? On the contrary, I have not heard a musician who blends country, blues, swing and rock 'n' roll so well as Henry. It was a refreshing reminder why I would rather listen to my beat-up copy of Red Headed Stranger and Stardust rather than what goes for country these days.
But calling The Wayback a country album is similar to calling Willie Nelson "country," because the blend of musical sounds keeps it from getting pigeonholed into any one category.
Henry does a masterful job of producing and arranging this album. He starts off slow with the ballad "Drive-In Movie Picture Show," which took me back to when my father took us to the drive-in movies. After a swing-influenced "Leaving Time," Henry picks up the tempo with a few fast-paced songs along with some pure instrumentals. He finishes the album by bringing the tempo back down with "Lay Your Head Down" and "Last Call."
The current guitarist for the Burns Sisters band, Henry won several flat-picking guitar championships in his young age, and it shows in his masterful control of the guitar. He switches effortlessly between electric and acoustic guitars, and along with bandmates from the Paula Cole Band and Dar Williams' drummer, he weaves a musical tapestry that is guaranteed to keep your toes tapping. With a voice reminiscent of Lyle Lovett and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Henry's smooth vocals draw you into his world. And as a proud Texan, I would be honored to have his song "Texas" become the new state song.
I can't recommend this album to any particular group, as I think it has mass appeal. I can think of three people in my family already who would love this album, and they all have different musical tastes. Mr. Henry, your album has officially entered heavy rotation on my CD player, and that's something rare indeed.
[ by Timothy Keene ]