Jack Henderson asks the audience Am I a romantic? while looking cool and Western in a subtle, city sort of way. In the broadest sense of the word, yes.
Henderson occupies a dark, contemporary world where the streets of London, New York and Nashville merge into a breathtaking soundscape of roots and rock ‘n’ roll.
The Englishman, who’s played guitar in the States with Canadian lo-fi rockers the Cowboy Junkies, is playing songs from his elegant album, THIS DARING LIGHT, itself recorded in the Big Apple with Patti Smith’s bass player Tony Shanahan at the controls.
Here, Shanahan has put together a transatlantic band to die for there’s guitarist Gerry Leonard, an Irishman long moved to New York, who’s worked regularly with David Bowie and Suzanne Vega; drummer Andy Newmark, an American who played on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy as well as dozens of other top albums; and Steve Nieve, keyboard played from Elvis Costello’s Attractions. While tonight is about Henderson (who plays a mean guitar himself) it’s also about mesmerising individual performances creating a rich, subtle, intelligent whole.
Henderson is poised to hit the big time with his music which has country elements but crosses lots of boundaries. Tonight, the perfect sound and simple, subterranean setting of one of the capital’s sleekest venues (with an audience including Sadie and the Hotheads and Downton Abbey star, Elizabeth McGovern) provides a striking framework for songs such as Country Song, all thrumming bass, swirling keyboards and echoing guitar, and Catherine Wheel, more country than the former, the sort of eclectic work that Rodney Crowell comes up with.
Hopeless Romantic pairs Henderson’s mean, moody vocals with Newmark’s subtle brushed drums and Leonard’s sublime dislocated guitar while Radio Girl is all crazed guitar and Nieve jumping between Steinway grand piano and his trademark keyboard. Henderson takes the piano for gentle Nothing In Stone and Over The Moon, solo except for a few chords from Nieve and some jagged guitar bursts.
It’s a powerful show that pushes country and roots in a whole new direction without ever seeming to really try. Henderson really is a hopeless romantic, with songs that could take the country chart by storm, and a band that deserve to rock the Country to Country festival. Nick Dalton www.jackhenderson.co.uk