In my post Halloween sugar buzz, I did some time searching the web for stories about John Henry, the folk hero who "died with a hammer in his hand, Oh Lord." Man vs. Machine in melting pot 19th century America. Coming to terms with the Industrial Revolution, with people losing jobs to the changing times, with traditional labor roles being replaced. Kinda like today. You can read about the era and the forces at hand in the book Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend.
The band The John Henrys emerge from rich traditions, but one would have to say they have fared better in their conquering of machines. The four band members work collectively on their songwriting and the storytelling is paramount, but here's the twist; their musicianship veers off from the traditional path one would expect from their namesake. “We picked the The John Henrys for our name because the story is such an inspiration,” says vocalist and guitarist Rey Sabatin Jr. His First Nations and Acadian heritage, along with his day job as a luthier, gives the band its Cajun flavor. Rey, along with Steve Tatone (keyboards) Doug Gouthro (guitar) Daryl Quinlan (bass), and Geoff Ward (drums) have been working together to create music since 2003. They released their eponymous debut album in 2004 and followed up with Sweet As The Grain in 2006. Along the way, they have shared the stage with artists like The Sadies, Cuff the Duke, The Golden Dogs, Elliott BROOD, and Femme-bots. Their third album White Linen took seven months to record, and they whittled it down from 17 songs to 11 before it saw light of day earlier this year. Here is the title track, from the Music Fog sessions in Nashville during the recent Americana Fest.
- Jessie Scott