Material: Blues, boogie and a healthy dose of traditional country are what you find at a Carl Henry performance. Whether a well-placed cover or quirky original, everything is linked by a strong sense of melody, pathos and humor. Songs like Willie Nelson’s “Still Not Dead” kick off that modern Americana spirit and blend with classic Detroit blues from Louis “Mr. Bo” Collins and John Lee Hooker. Otis Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby” also figures prominently in the mix. Twisted Catholic school reminiscences with the ode “Sister Josephine” and his “Ballad of Fifty Dollars” draw you in with a very personal touch.
Musicianship: Henry is an extremely accomplished guitarist who is adept at finger-picking and slide work. In particular, his slide acumen really shines on tunes like Bo Diddley’s “Hand Jive” and “Who Do You Love.” He plays a lot of clean single-note lines and deftly matches them with cool chord substitutions for a nice jazz-blues approach. Vocally, Henry has a moderate range but delivers it in an authoritative and authentic manner. He has a seasoned voice, not unlike Johnny Cash or John Prine. Counterpart Tony Berci can wail on harmonica or play super sweet. He has a keen sense of where a tune is going and can adapt to the mood and feel.
Performance: Henry is a tall and striking individual. With his black cowboy hat and overall attire he blended perfectly with the rustic ambience of the bar itself. He is a storyteller and properly set up each tune, with his encyclopedic recall of general music history and tales of the many Detroit area blues artists he has performed with. He also knew how to engage the crowd with some much-needed humor, especially upon dealing with brief equipment issues that derailed things for a moment. However, he and Berci were a valiant pair, specifically tearing it up on Johnny Cash nuggets like “Ring of Fire” and the heart-wrenching “Hurt.”
Summary: Carl Henry is a true veteran in the sense of offering the audience a complete package as singer, songwriter, storyteller, humorist and raconteur. Even though he’s very contemporary and references current events in his compositions, there is a timeless and limitless quality that should allow him to break down barriers and appeal to any age group. Henry is a “real deal” road worthy performer.