Skip to content

The Henrys’ ‘Paydirt’


It’s my theory that Meghan and Harry haven’t fled the UK for Canada to get away from the red-tops. I think it’s because they know that the Henrys and the Weather Station have new albums out this year, and they’ll get more chances to see these great Canadian musicians playing gigs in actual Canada.

I don’t know when Tamara Lindeman intends to put out the new Weather Station album, but the Henrys released theirs this week. It’s their sixth, it’s called Paydirt, and it’s another one guaranteed to delight those who’ve acquired a taste for the understated, beautifully shaped music of the band led by the guitarist Don Rooke, who is probably best known outside his homeland as a key contributor to Mary Margaret O’Hara’s small but bejewelled discography.

When Rooke visited the UK before Christmas, we took a train journey to Nottingham together, during which I asked him which, out of all his collection of guitars, was the one he’d be most reluctant to lose. Unsurprisingly he nominated his original Weissenborn, a soft-shouldered Hawaiian lap steel made in Los Angeles before the second world war. Don plays all sorts of guitars, but the mellow, unhurried twang of this one makes it the best-suited to his particular form of self-expression .

Unlike its predecessors, Paydirt is not available on CD. Sixteen tracks can be downloaded, 11 of which are also available on a vinyl disc. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a quietly eventful ramble through a landscape in which folk, country and blues meet and mingle, the conversation varying in stylistic emphasis but held together by a firm sense of collective understanding. To apply familiar terms like “backwoods” or “backporch” would not be entirely inappropriate, although it would probably overemphasise the bucolic nature of music that feels no need to advertise its sophistication.

Alongside Rooke are Davide DiRenzo on drums, Joseph Phillips on acoustic bass, John Dymond and Paul Pasmore on bass guitars, Jonathan Goldsmith on piano and pump organ, Joey Wright on guitar and mandocello, John Sheard on organ and pump organ and Hugh Marsh on violin. That sounds like a lot of musicians, but they share the work around and the sound is always spare and intimate. There are no guest singers this time, but every track sounds like a song.

The tunes are all Rooke’s. You might feel as though you’ve known them your entire life. You haven’t. If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be “Ruby I Realize”, a relaxed shuffle in which the infiltration of Sheard’s light-fingered organ makes them sound like a chilled-out Booker T and the MGs, in the best possible way. Or the hymn-like dignity of “Stolen Border”. Or the blithe, skipping tune of “Bounty Jumpers”. Or the yearning lyricism of “It Was Old But We Knew”. Or the dobro and pump organ of “The Church Picnic”. Or the lightly funky second-line rhythm of “His Weakness Was Slender Arms”. Like just about every note I’ve ever heard from this source, Paydirt is highly recommended.

* Paydirt can be acquired via Bandcamp:

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Simmo #

    No CD, no sale.

    January 26, 2020
  2. Tim Adkin #

    Hugh Marsh is an interesting cove popping up on all manner of interesting stuff over the years.

    January 26, 2020
  3. GuitarSlinger #

    Thanks for another great recommendation … but like Simme … no CD … no sale ( I don’t do no stickin downloads … in no small part because being a bonafide Melomane … complete with a proper stereo …the sound quality … sucks !!! )

    So come on young musicians … get a clue … put it out on CD .. for those of us … that actually care rather than run on to the next thing before the current has been fully listened to

    As for Meagan and Harry … perhaps like myself ( in the US ) they’ve grown tired of living in a country constantly engaged in one military conflict or another … since 1949 ( we in the US have not had 12 months straight of peace since 1949 … and by all reckoning … neither have y’all )

    January 26, 2020
  4. GuitarSlinger #

    Damn … I’m sampling their album “Joyous Porous ” . Damn ! Thats one helluva band who’s CD’s ( what they have ) will definitely go into my collection . Kind of like Bill Frisell meets Joe Henry with a bit of Petra Haden/Andrew Bird on the side

    Speaking of Joe Henry … I highly recommend all his last four albums … especially the newest

    January 26, 2020
  5. John Westwood #

    As a big fan of The Henrys, I own all their cds, alas I won’t be purchasing Paydirt as I don’t do music downloads. Please think again Mr. Rooke

    May 3, 2020
    • Don Rooke #

      Dear John,

      Sorry about that, and thanks for your support over the years. The Henrys don’t sell enough CDs in this market to make financial sense of their manufacturing – not even close.

      Having said that, the best digital download, while anathema to many, can actually be found (eg at Bandcamp) in significantly higher audio quality than CDs (24 bit vs.16). It’s easy to burn a cd from those files via iTunes, if you choose.

      Btw, if you’re interested, although we can’t play live, of course, we plan to put a video on YouTube of most of the release concert for Paydirt, which was on Feb 9. Our next show was to be May 24; barring techno-disaster (never out of the question), we’ll post it then.


      May 11, 2020
      • John Westwood #

        Thank you Don for taking the trouble to reply. It makes no sense to me that you’re not selling heaps of cds as you’re such a great band; it’s a real pity you’re not more popular!

        Kind regards

        John Westwood

        May 16, 2020
    • Terry Kitchen #

      It was mastered in LA by Bill Putnam’s former head engineer and sounds amazing; there’s some “proper stereo” for you audiophile types.
      And the vinyl comes with a CD copy of the previous album “Quiet Industry”.
      No excuses.

      July 2, 2020
  6. Dougal Campbell #

    I’m no audiophile, but I found the quality of the downloaded lossless version totally fine, and so easy to transfer to CD. ‘Paydirt’ is indeed full of lovely, lyrical and musicianly playing. Also from The Henrys, ‘Is This Tomorrow?’ (2009) is great if you want singing too, with Mary Margaret O’Hara, Becca Stevens and Martina Sorbara on top form – the latter two are new names and voices to me, but sweetly melodic, fitting in well with the Henrys sound.

    March 25, 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: