Back in 2006, Chris Henry wrote and recorded “Walkin’ West To Memphis,” a strutting, ’50s-style bluegrass/country hybrid with more hooks than a hat rack—great lyrics, great feel. Not surprisingly the song charted to number five a few years later for The Gibsons and was nominated for IBMA Song Of The Year.
None of the 16 originals on Henry’s new CD quite match that one. Good songs do abound; some of them are very good. “Every Day I’m Riding” is a straight-ahead traditional bluegrass tune in the “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” mode and Henry’s mandolin solo will certainly catch your attention. That one pairs well with a similar traditionally-based number “Nothing Left But The Blues.” Both of those rate as good; not overly distinctive lyrically or tunefully, but entertaining and well-played. The 3/4 country lilt of “Tears In My Eyes” also fits in that category.
A bit better all around is the straight out drums and electric guitar honky-tonk of “I Keep Dreaming Of You.” That one comes the closest to matching “Walkin’ West To Memphis,” lacking only a couple of memorable hooks. Arguably the best track on the CD is “Incarceration.” I doubt it will garner much chart action, and it’s really not all that tuneful or catchy, but it certainly has the most depth to it, exploring as it does prison life, not in a “Stone Walls And Steel Bars” way, but more from the psychological end. It’s deep tones and choir-like harmonies and turgid pace make it quite mesmerizing and affecting. Also worth noting are the Caribbean rhythms of the paean to Florida, “Where The River Flows,” and the Johnny-and-Jack-like goofiness of “Robot Dreams.” The latter must be heard to be appreciated.
Perhaps it is unfair to compare this CD to “Walkin’ West…” Such are the perils of success. This should still be seen as a good recording of traditional bluegrass, electric country, and folk-tinged tunes. (www.christopherhenry.net.)BW