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The Henry GirlsThe Henry Girls
Album: Far Beyond The Stars
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 13

"An eclectic mix of music I would never have imagined to appear on the same CD."

The Henry Girls are an Irish folk and roots music group. The band consists of three sisters: Karen, Joleen and Lorna McLaughlin. All three have studied music and are multi-instrumentalists, utilizing fiddles, ukulele, banjo, guitar, harp, mandolin, piano, and accordion. The McLaughlin sisters are from Malin in Inishowen, County Donegal, in Ulster, Ireland. They formed the band over 10 years ago. They named the band after their grandfather. They released their debut album, "Between Us" in 2003, released their album "Dawn" in 2010, and that year they were nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award for Best Original Score for the film A Shine of Rainbows, which featured songs from the album Dawn. Their latest album is "Far Beyond the Stars" an eclectic mix of music I would never have imagined to appear on the same CD. Here is my précis of each of the thirteen tracks. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did.

Oh Why.
There is a dichotomy in this song. On the one hand, in a tempestuous relationship the woman is pleading for her loved one to stay. "Put your head on my shoulder and let me keep you warm." OK so far, but then she tells you not to stay just for her, If you do go she won't follow you. Perhaps she doesn't love you quite enough. This song, apparently inspired by "Lassie Lie Near Me" by Robbie Burns, bounces along at a canter considering the message contained therein. Mandolins and percussion back up the surprisingly lively lyrics. I can see folk dancing to this at a Céilidh.

A Friend Like You.
The band's Irish background blends nicely with their interest the products of Nashville in this song. A similar theme to the first song in that the singer is confused as to whether she wants the friend to stay or not, but if needed she'll be right there. The fiddle plays a more prominent role in the orchestration which lends a more plaintiff air than in the previous offering, it is charming.

Down By the River.
Irish music is littered with songs of young girls who lend their affections to raffish men only to find themselves abandoned as the men take off for sunnier climes. In this example the sadness of the girl is displayed. She sits down by the river and reflects on her happy memories of the times she had with the young man, but she knows he is gone. The compelling close harmony acapella introduction is joined by the banjo which has been present in every song so far, but this time takes precedence over the other instruments to good effect.

More Love More Silence.
It is probably not the intention of the Henry Girls, but this song took me back to the 1960's era of love ins and exotic fragrance induced semi-comatose expressions of "forget tomorrow it's too far away." It is a dreamy soundtrack to a time when lads and lasses enjoy each other's company. But then it seems it owes something to A E Houseman's writings about Ludlow fair. I am confused, but a lot of us were in the Sixties.

Far Beyond The Stars.
Purely acapella with a lot of reverb, the title song of the CD is completely different to what I was expecting. A second dreamy rendition delivered in a way almost reminiscent of a Gregorian chant. "Far beyond the stars, above the noise and danger, I know that you are waiting there, I see you in my dreams." This is a surprising musical offering on what I though was going to be a CD of Americana and Country songs. It is delightful.

Ocean Of War.
We seem to be in the midst of a re-invention of George Harrison's venture into Indian music. The refrain is lifted way above us, slightly distant while the band plays (not too loudly) in the foreground. I was convinced I heard Tabla and Sitar being played, but on band listing for this track I found only the same instruments that have been with us from the beginning, fiddle, banjo, harp, viola, guitar, drums and electric bass. This goes to prove that in versatile and skilled hands even conventional instruments can make exotic sounds. The rather sad lyrics portray disillusionment. "How far can you wander when you don't know the way? In an ocean of war you just want to swim to silence and linger there."

Rebel Girl.

This song was inspired by writer Joe Hill’s friend, Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn, who was a prominent speaker and leader in the Industrial Workers of the World. Updated lyrics change the Rebel Girl’s role from supporting Rebel Boys to becoming a powerful force herself. It is a real hootenanny of a country song celebrating the working class women who fight for their rights. "She’s a Rebel Girl, a Rebel Girl!
She’s the working class, the strength of this world." I loved both sentiment and the fast pace of this song.

Don't Call Me Honey.
A defiant woman who is determined not to be patronised by a overbearing and conceited man makes her position absolutely clear. Harmonies in the happy clappy style of Andrews/Beverly Sisters belie the message contained in the song which has a rather unexpected ending. There is no doubt of the variety of music on this album and we are still only halfway through it.

Slow Down.
As I write this review, it has just been announced that a deal has been done to talk about a deal on Brexit. I have been watching various "experts" on TV saying what should or should not be done and first words of this song rang out loud and clear. "What's the use in advice when you don't know what's coming... ...hold tight and accept the rise." This lilting melodic waltz dances us along in a state of wondering what happens next.

Falling In love Again.
The instrumental intro tip toes us into a gentle romantic dream, in which the girls tell us sweetly and convincingly that they are "Falling In Love Again." In the dream their hero rescues them (don't all heroes do that?) Even the next morning the feeling of love endures. When I saw this title on the song list, I had visions of a well know song by Marlene Dietrich in the 1930's. However although they share the same title this song completely different and so much better for it.

No More Maybes.
The essence of this song is we must not give up our individuality even though we are together. There have been bad mistakes before and the burning fires light the way into our future. The harp is more noticeable in this track and it's slightly percussive sound is a foil to the other instruments and makes a pleasurable whole.

Satisfied Mind.
The writer of this ballad is that doyen of country music, Porter Wagoner who says that the dream of doing good things if you had the money is a false premise. It is hard to find one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind. It is performed in a slow 3/4 time which seems entirely appropriate. The excellent vocal harmonies employed in this song pervade the whole album.

I'm Your Baby.
This is an out and out love song performed in a time-honoured three girl harmonic manner which fits exactly with the nature of the song. "We'll be singing our songs all day long, we'll be dancing around and you'll be acting the clown." I can just see a lot of line dancing to this one. It is a happy go lucky love poem and a fitting end to this excellent but intriguing album.
This album has such a variety of music contained it in I wonder how to start summing it up. I know one thing, if this is indicative of their concerts, no wonder The Henry Girls are so popular. Almost no matter what type of mainstream music you like, you find in these women. To have traditional Irish music, mixed with ethereal mood and Asian influences and full blown country is amazing. I was surprised and charmed by this CD and in awe of the talents that purveyed such a fine product.

Tony Collins