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.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles