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John Henrys - Sweet as the Grain

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 26 / 10 / 2008



John Henrys - Sweet as the Grain
Label: 9LB
Format: CD

intro

Classic country rock on first international release for the Band and Gram Parsons-influenced Canadian group, the John Henrys


Whether any tracks on this, the John Henrys first ‘internationally distributed’ album, also appeared on their self-titled debut album which was only released in Canada in 2004, is hard to ascertain but from the design of the cover to the listing of the songs as ‘side A’ and ‘side B’ to the way the band are dressed one thing is certain; these five musicians are influenced by the Band and Gram Parsons and of that there is little doubt. As soon as the first song, ‘Sweet As The Grain’, plays it’s all confirmed, the song is all lap steel, harmonies and the glorious sound of five obviously talented musicians and singers playing as one. It’ll blow you away. It’s an excellent opener to any album, full of life, the sound of a band playing what they feel and feeling it for real. Vocally it’s perfect, recalling all those who touched that country-rock sound from Parsons through to the Jayhawks and beyond. It’s a perfect introduction to the John Henrys. Of course the problem is what do you follow an opening song like that with? ‘Lost In The Canyon’ is obviously the answer. With blistering guitar solos from either Rey Sabatin Jr. or Doug Gouthro or possibly both of them, and organ from Steve Tatone all adding to the atmosphere it’s a song that even at six minutes loses none of its power for a second. Those opening two songs are worth the price of this album alone and have the right to be the highlight of any country / southern soul compilation album in the future. The vocals on ‘Lost In The Canyon’ are just dripping with emotion and if guitars ever talked then this song should be held up as evidence to support it. It’s perfect. It should all go down hill from track three really but thankfully it doesn’t. While it has to be said that nothing that follows those opening two songs quite matches their brilliance the following ten songs are still nothing short of excellent. But when your breath has just been taken away by two songs that sum up all that is good in the country-rock / soul genre it takes a while for the rest of the songs to catch up. Both ‘Padawadamie’ and ‘Ain’t Gonna Drink No More’ which follow, are fine country-rock songs which take a lighter and more traditional stance than those opening shots and had me thinking of the debut album by Crazy Horse which is no bad thing but the song that closes ‘side A’ is another slab of country soul going by the name of ‘New Years’ and just makes a stronger case that the band, while never less than excellent over this whole album, really shine when they inject their sound with the John Henrys own take on southern soul. While the vocals are not quite as emotion-filled as those on ‘Lost In The Canyon’ the playing is ; again those guitars, the drums even are all giving off so much passion it’s hard to take in…but a pleasure to do so. The ‘second side’ of the CD opens with ‘Truth Be Told (Inez)’ and one wonders if all the following songs are going to be in this tender vein, again the vocals and harmonies are breath-taking and the instrumentation just perfect ; it’s another slice of melodic country-rock, kind of like an Eagles song that it’s ok to like. But the difference is that The John Henrys inject a whole lot of soul into both the vocals and into their playing that many other bands playing similar music sadly lack. But ‘side B’ isn’t all like ‘Truth Be Told’, ‘No More Rock And Roll’ peculiarly adds more than a shot of good old rock ‘n’ roll into the song and those good old country sounds are back and well to the fore on ‘Angel’ and ‘Eldorado’. Three absolute classic country/southern soul songs and nine first-class country-rock cuts make for an interesting album and one that will make the name of The John Henrys one to look out for in the future.



Track Listing:-
1 Sweet As The Grain
2 Lost In The Canyon
3 Padawadamie
4 Ain't Gonna Drink No More
5 Thought Yourself Lucky
6 New Years
7 Truth Be Told (Inez)
8 No More Rock N' Roll
9 Eldorado
10 Angel
11 Ugly Town
12 Golden Train



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White Linen (2010)
Solid third album of country/rock from dynamic Canadian quintet, the John Henrys


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