Own Label – 2017
Named after their grandfather, Donegal sisters Karen, Lorna and Joleen McLaughlin have been trading as The Henry Girls for 14 years. Far Beyond The Stars is their sixth album, produced and recorded by Callum Malcolm and featuring a close harmony collection of self-penned numbers and occasional cover that underline their mix of Celtic folk and Americana, with instrumentation that includes harp, fiddle, accordion, ukulele, banjo, double bass, and piano.
A number of tracks featured on last year’s Sketches EP make a reappearance including the very Irish lilting keep your feet on the ground themed Slow Down and the uke-strummed 30s flavoured shuffle Falling In Love Again (a vibe revisited on album closer I’m Your Baby). Finally, with it’s opening a capella intro, before double bass, fiddle and guitar kicks in, is the handclap-driven Don’t Call Me Honey.
Far Beyond The Stars opens with a new number, the muscular Oh Why with its urgent driving rhythm, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, a song about being an independent woman (“I don’t want to be the reason that you stay, but I know that I won’t follow everytime you go away”). Things calm down for the dreamily bucolic A Friend Like You, another push and tug relationship song, before Down By The River introduces the first of the Appalachian colours with Karen on banjo and Denise Boyle adding viola.
Although many of the songs deal with matters of the heart, there are a couple of exceptions. The self-penned Ocean Of War, one of the few numbers to feature electric bass, addresses the refugee crisis while, with Liam Bradley on brushed drums, the sprightly Rebel Girl was written by labour activist Joe Hill in 1911. The song pays tribute to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a leading light of the Industrial Workers of the World and founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The album’s second cover comes towards the end, it features Ted Ponsonby on dobro for a slow waltzing version of Satisfied Mind, erroneously credited here to Porter Wagoner (who reached No 1 with the song in 1955 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs) was written by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes.
Joleen’s harp gets due prominence in setting the scene for the Americana folksy No More Maybes. A song that muses on how holding on to who you are while in a relationship is a healthy way to keep it together (“We’re always playing the same game. So you drink whisky, I’ll drink wine. We’ll see the sunshine through the rain”).
And, what would be the point of having immaculate three-part harmonies without a full showcase? Thus, the title track, Far Beyond The Stars, a beautifully sung love song to one who has passed (“Far beyond the clouds. Above the storm and turmoil. I know that we will meet again”), the coup de grace on a truly stellar album.
For live dates visit: http://www.thehenrygirls.com/live