Henrys and Silver Hearts eschew beaten path
FFWD Magazine- Mary-Lynn McEwen
Preview - The Silver Hearts and The Henrys
Its fitting that Wyatt Burton, electric guitarist and lap steel
player for Peterborough, Ontarios The Silver Hearts, calls from a
cellphone as hes travelling to Nanton on Route 564 while surrounded,
he says, by nothing. After all, the bands music sometimes swingy
honky-tonk ragtime, other times weeping, sweeping ballads, but more
often something else altogether dwells at a neighbour-less address in
a wilderness of harmoniously conflicting styles. That and their most
recent album is titled No Place.
Burton is getting tired of the way-off-the-mark Tom Waits references
some people repeat to try to hang a label around the bands neck. For
one thing, Waits is a vocalist, not a singer, and the reference
degrades the marvelously melodic and direct vocals shared among most of
the bands 12 members.
"Its sort of a dogged obvious comparison, a straw for people to grasp at due to the eclectic nature of the music we play," Burton says. "Im pretty sick of the Tom Waits comparison." Indeed, the music is so delighted in its selfness that the most one can say is that a whiff of eau de Band drifts through it now and then.
"Its difficult for me to draw comparisons because I know everyone in the band so well," says Burton. "Its a mixed bag of influences everyone from Kraftwerk to King Crimson to The Stooges to Joni Mitchell to Nick Drake. Theres so many diverse influences at work at any time . We are a conflagration of 12 interesting and spirited people playing music thats written in a fairly honest and hopefully unpretentious way."
The band with the unlikely sound evolved from the unlikely circumstances of a Monday night jam in a medieval pub in Peterborough. The four core members eventually began adding about one musician a month, providing musical saw, sousaphone, viola, Theremin and other instruments until there were 14 players. They shrank back to 12, but the bands sound was further diversified by the fact that almost all of the members write songs for the group. Their first project was also unlikely writing soundtracks for a friends spaghetti-western cowboy plays.
"Originally the material we performed would only feature the word silver or was written by a dead blind person. That became somewhat limiting. It did start out having a slightly spaghetti-western feel to it, so we used the name Silver Hearts, a euphemism for a sheriffs badge."
Another band that slips between genres is Torontos The Henrys. A few vocals by Mary Margaret OHara stop their most recent album, Joyous Porous, from being completely instrumental, but OHara wont be joining them at the festival this year. Don Rooke, who plays guitar, lap steel, kalimba, steel drums and kona (add the Mellotron, modcan, toys and pump organ contributed by some of the other four members and you start to get an idea of why they slip between genres), says the 10-year-old band is welcomed by folk and alternative venues alike, but that jazz audiences listen with the most wide-open ears.
"Usually the audience is open to hearing music thats not easy to categorize," says Rooke. "Im tongue-tied to describe (our music), and I dont mind that . The melodies define how theyre treated, and they evolve and that changes (our) approach. "Say its kind of a countryish melody I do have it in the back of my mind that I dont want it to come out like traditional country. I really dont want to see any of that, so on that level there is a conscious effort not to play anything too obvious or anything that would constrict the parameters of the tune. Its a little bit conscious, but at the same time were getting to the point where we approach it as The Henrys, and it will turn out that way almost in spite of us."