The O-town Scene

March 03, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Music People The John Henrys The John Henrys play a distinct brand of rock that incorporates ele- ments from alt-country, folk and Americana. The group is made up of Rey Sabatin (lead vocals/guitar), Steve Tatone (keyboards), Doug Gouthro (guitar), Daryl Quinlan (bass) and Geoff Ward (drums). The Scene talked with Sabatin about performing live, handling crit- ics, songwriting and more. The Chenango County Council of the Arts will present an evening with the Ottawa group at The Martin W. Kappel Theater in Norwich at 7p.m. Friday, March 18. Ticket prices range from $17.50 to $24.50, with discounts for seniors and members of the Arts Council. Admission for those 18 and younger is $10. O-Town Scene: It seems somewhat ironic that such Americana greats like Neil Young and The Band come from Canada. Do you see a major difference in Ameri- can and Canadian musi- cians who play that style of music? REY SABATIN: I think that a lot of American artists have inspired Canadian writers, and from the Canadian perspective, the style of music gets mildly transformed. I don’t see a dif- ference in the quality, though. I mean, the U.S. has Creedence Clearwater Revival, we have The Band; you guys have Spring- steen and we have Neil Young. A good artist can’t be defined by the place they hang their hat; they’re just good, that’s all. That goes for the bad as well; for instance, we have New Country, too. OS: You have received great support from radio, in- cluding the CBC and Sirius/ XM, throughout the band’s career. What do you think it is about your music that attracts radio programmers and their audiences? RS: That’s a tough one. I guess if I could figure that out, I would just do it to death and call it a career, and maybe not have to sell guitars I love to pay bills. (Rey is a luthier, someone who makes and repairs stringed instruments.) OS: What has your experience been playing in the Northeast? RS: The Northeast, overall, is a special place, and we love going there. There is so much history and grit in all those cities _ it has made that section of the world truly unique and given the people of that area so much character. OS: Some of your songs are based on historical events and traditional folk ballads. How would you describe the band's spin and presentation on these familiar subjects to make them unique as “John Henrys” songs? RS: We certainly don’t try to make them anything except what they are supposed to be. In other words, we don’t try to stuff a car into a lunch box _ a good song will gener- ally tell you exactly where it wants to go; it's up to the artists to hear it. Once it's there, it may be exactly the same way it started out, or something completely different. I feel songs that require a lot of experimentation and a computer to finish are generally not very good; they always just end up sounding like what we call “Texture Rock.” That’s not what The John Henrys do _ we are far too laid back to push a song that hard. OS: What aspects of your sound do you try to amplify during your live performances that may not fully come across on your recordings? RS: Well, of course there’s the energy part and audience connections and all that. Re- ally, it's hard to say what people get out of a live show. I know that some nights, some songs go past the sum of their respective parts live, and you really know that something special just happened. It may not even have sounded as good as the album, but there was just something in the air _ the performance, the feel and the audience. That's the best thing about a live show, sharing those mo- ments with people. OS: Have you felt any kind of back- lash from certain audiences? For example, rock fans saying you're too country, or country fans saying you're too rock? RS: I guess so, but our band has never tried to please the genre- specific critics. We just can't, and I don’t think they will ever understand what propels us to make music. We have a likeness to many bands in the ’70s for this reason. We are quite happy with a diverse album, and for us it is all rock ‘n’ roll with twists of everything else. We try to write good songs, not sound a certain way _ that kind of thing does not interest us in the slightest. We are not bluegrass purists and we certainly are not trying find the newest experimental sound. We're just five songwriters/musi- cians who can’t seem to stop writ- ing and playing, like it or not. _ Adam Sisenwein ‘White Linen,’ The John Henrys’s latest album, is available through 9 LB Records. Contributed For more information on the band, including tour dates and links to purchase their music, head to You can also stay in touch with the band through Facebook and Twitter. March 3, 2011 O-Town Scene 11

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