Katie Henry – High Road
Self-Release – 2018
10 tracks; 44 minutes
Katie Henry is a young multi-instrumentalist from New Jersey and on her debut disc she plays piano, clavinet and guitar as well as handling all lead vocals. The band is John Ginty on keys (who also produced the album), Jonathan Fritz on guitar, Antar Goodwin on bass and Maurice ‘Moe’ Watson on drums/BV’s plus a few guests: Marcus Randolph (pedal steel), Anthony Kazan (guitar), Mike Buckman (rhythm guitar) and Billy Harvey (vocals) appear on one track each and Hector Lopez is on drums on two cuts. All the songs are original, credited to Katie and Antar. The album was recorded at Showplace Studios by Ben Elliott, so one wonders why the album was not released on Ben’s American Showplace label.
The album shows that Katie has quite a range of styles. Opener “Nowhere Fast” has a sort of 70’s disco feel before it develops into a fast-paced rocker with the organ bubbling away beneath the rhythm and a fiery guitar solo. Katie’s vocals manage to be bright yet sultry at the same time, a tune that grows on you. “Nothing To Lose” finds Katie in a bit of a mess: “My drink’s half drunk and my wallet’s half empty, my mind just won’t be nice. I got half an ounce of sense and a lot less weed and I give myself bad advice.” Paying dues is what it’s called and Katie’s song describes how tough it can be as a musician starting out – good vocals and a catchy mid-tempo arrangement.
The run of songs that follows really shows Katie’s versatility: “Chapels” is a good song about how “cities’ tallest buildings are not chapels anymore”, the exciting pedal steel adding gospel accents; the title track “High Road” is an attractive country tune; “Carry You” is an emotional ballad about returning the favour to a friend who helped you “out of a dark place” and also features an extended guitar solo; “Gypsy Sister” is an anthemic song that seems to be about a lost friend with piano and guitar both featured.
None of those songs are really blues, but “Dead Man’s Hands” gets closer, a dark piece with John’s organ and Katie’s piano setting the mood well, and “Someday” is a rolling blues with good slide work from Anthony Kazan. “Roll Away” has nice harmonies (mainly Katie, I presume), a good rocker with a feel-good chorus accented by slide guitar; album closer “Takes A Lot” shows the whole band working well together, the bass underpinning the whole tune, a nagging funk guitar riff underpinning Katie’s strong vocals and guitar, organ and clavinet all getting their moment in the spotlight.
This is an accomplished effort which has deservedly been rewarded with a nomination in the 2019 Blues Blast Awards for Debut Album. It will be interesting to see what path Katie will follow in the future as she seems to have quite a range of choices!