FAME Review - Jacksonville / The Wayback
A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Roberta Schwartz.
Jim Henry's Jacksonville is nothing short of stunning. From Wall Street's boardrooms to the rural landscapes of America's heartland, Jim Henry weaves stories of greed and indiscretion, fathers and sons, love of family, hearth and home. All of this in a rich, warm voice, sometimes bluesy, sometimes haunting, but most often comforting and familiar, and always compelling. This album features some of the finest guitar work to be heard on any acoustic recording in recent memory. Jim Henry emerges as phenomenal singer/songwriter, drawing you in and keeping you close.
Jim Henry is one of the great, largely unsung talents on the acoustic music scene today. Perhaps it's because he lives in the western Massachusetts enclave of musicians which includes the likes of Dar Williams, Cliff Eberhardt and the Nields. Or perhaps it's due to the fact that four years have passed since his debut recording, Jacksonville, was released. But he has not been idle during those years. He has toured extensively, often in the company of Maria Sangiolo. He has made an instrumental recording with Brooks Williams, and he has provided the Burns Sisters with extraordinary backing on guitar. Jim Henry is a man of many talents.
And so it is with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that we greet the realse of Jim Henry's second recording on the Signature Sounds label, The Wayback. The recordings on the CD are all live and unedited. Richard Gates on bass and Doug Plavin on drums both appeared on Henry's first recording. The Burns Sisters, Annie and Jeannie, appear here providing stellar backing vocals. It all comes together with Jim Henry's warm, comfortable, smooth as butterscotch voice and outstanding musicianship on guitar. No one celebrates old-fashioned love of family and the places of one's childhood like Jim Henry. The recording opens with "Drive-in Movie Picture Show," which describes the simple pleasure of taking off with your family one summer night to enjoy the latest film offering at the neighborhood drive-in theater. "Ruby (The Girl with the Flyaway Hair)," is an instrumental tribute to Henry's small daughter. And "We Think We'll Keep Him," is a fun, joyous, upbeat tune which is a love song to Henry's little boy. Something about the timbre and inflections of Jim Henry's voice and the nature of his melodies provide a country feel to much of his music. "Leaving Time," with its torturous tale of love gone wrong, accompanied by some fine work on the guitar, and "Restless," with its upbeat melody and country-flavored guitar, are two examples of Henry's ability to cross over into the country music genre. And, you can do a perfect two-step to "Texas."
Jim Henry hails from the Midwest. His love for this part of the country shows in one of the best cuts, "Sound of the Whistle Blow." It's all here, Henry's warm, smooth vocals, the beautiful melody played out on both acoustic and electric guitars, and the stunning harmonies of Annie and Jeannie Burns. This is the near-perfect song.
The Wayback is Jim Henry's way back into recording and performing his own original music. With his warm, accessible baritone celebrating love of home and family and his extraordinary skill on guitar, his presence on the music scene has been sorely missed. So, do find your way to Jim Henry and The Wayback. Jim Henry is back and that's a good thing, for sure."
"Into the Blue," from Jim Henry's first recording, was one of the highlights of the evening. Mark Erelli accompanied him here on an otherworldly-sounding lap steel guitar. All in all, it was a memorable evening. I lost track of how many instruments Jim pulled out, but I do remember a couple of electric guitars, a handmade acoustic guitar, a new mandolin and a Dobro. It was a treat to hear this man play so well on such a range of instruments."