Chris Henry Celebrates Album at Third & Lindsley

Chris Henry Celebrates Album at Third & Lindsley
 
NASHVILLE,
Tennessee — Chris Henry is a devoted student of Bill Monroe’s music but
casual listeners to his new — and free — album, Making My Way To You, might easily overlook his more traditional leanings.  In fact, the songs on Making My Way To You
(available as a free download through Noisetrade.com) draw from a very
deep well of influences that range from straight ahead bluegrass to hip
hop.
 
Henry will perform songs from the album on Thursday, May 2 at 9:30 p.m. in Nashville at Third & Lindsley. 
 
“As
someone who loves Bill Monroe so much, the last lesson to learn from
him was not to do what he did,” says Henry, the son of noted bluegrass
veterans Red and Murphy Henry.  “He expected music to grow, not to
become stagnate. If you’re going to follow his model,  learn what he did
and be progressive with it.  Be yourself.  I’m not interested in doing
‘bluegrass theater’.”
 
Monroe
himself was a revolutionary figure in the music world, Henry points
out. The Father of Bluegrass brought influences to acoustic music that
were at the time unheard of, blending modern black influences of blues
and jazz music with folk and old time Celtic.  
 
While
Henry grew up in the bluegrass and folk circles, he has followed a
natural muse that has opened his own sound to country, rock and hip-hop
music. “I’ve not tried to sequester myself from any of the modern
influences, and even though you can’t hear it distinctly, the hip-hop is
there,” Henry says.  “In fact, one line in my song, “Down” is directly
lifted from Wu Tang Clan.”
 
His
band is called Hardcore Grass, and the reason is because of the
intensity with which they perform his music.  It’s best described as a
kind of  “white-knuckle, bite the cap off the coke bottle grit.” 
 
There
is certainly a hardcore element to Henry’s music, heard in the bold
intent to the performances. “That’s what makes music compelling,” he
says.  “The focus is on the song and not on how fast we can play.”
 
Being
raised by two remarkable musicians had its advantages, among them being
taught by masters.  The young Henry began playing mandolin as a four
year old (though he made his first bluegrass festival appearance at the
age of three playing a ukulele.  
 
In
1994, he  met Monroe backstage at the Grand Old Opry. Henry played
“Rawhide” on Monroe’s mandolin after which the legend put his hat on the
youngster’s head and danced around the room. Afterwards Monroe told
Henry “If you ever need anything, boy, you come and let me know.”  
 
A
Fender Telecaster for his 16th birthday quickly turned Henry’s  head to
rock music making the rounds to heavy metal, and then punk rock where
he ended up playing the drums in a band called The Bends for five years.
  Back in Virginia in 2001, he began work on his first full length
mandolin album titled, “Mandolumination”,  a combination of traditional
hardcore bluegrass mandolin, mixed with his interest in eastern
intervals.  Half of the album also featured MIDI orchestration as well
as live mandolin and guitar.  It was also the first year that he and his
dad, Red, started playing folk festivals in Florida. They have since
become a favorite among the attendees at the Florida Folk Festival, Will
McLean Memorial Festival, and the Gamble Rogers Memorial Festival.
 
Henry
continued to expand his musical horizons by getting into rap and
hip-hop music. It was a natural transition to make since he had been
“making beats” through MIDI for almost ten years at that point. After a
while, his interest in the rhyming side of things compelled him and he
went on to record two solo rap albums as well as a group album with two
friends. He produced all the music for these three albums and led to
Henry becoming an in-demand producer in the Northern Virginia area. 
 
Though
much of his time was spent in his forays into more urban music, he was
still honing his bluegrass chops being a frontman and lead singer for
Dalton Brill and the Wildcats, a favorite local bluegrass band.
 
In
2003, Henry decided it was time to join his sister in Nashville with
dreams to play bluegrass full time.  He was hired shortly after moving
to town to pick mandolin and sing tenor with 1946, a retro-style
bluegrass band. After a year with 1946, and a year with Audie Blaylock
and Redline, Henry and his sister Casey formed a band called Casey and Chris and the Two-Stringers,
and recorded a CD with many of his original songs. It was very
difficult for the duo to find musicians who really supported their
vision of mountain-style bluegrass in Nashville, so after a couple of
years they decided to pursue other opportunities.
 
One
evening at the famed Station Inn in Nashville, Henry met Adam Olmstead,
a gifted songwriter and singer.  In the following years, he recorded
mandolin and sang on Olmstead’s two studio albums which led to Henry and
the album’s producer, Alan O’Bryant, to New Brunswick for tours of the
maritimes including Nova Scotia.
 
He
followed with a mandolin album which made the long nomination list for
IBMA’s Instrumental Album of the Year.  He was contacted by the late
Butch Baldassarri who initiated the project’s concept.  The album
features many of the best in bluegrass: Red Henry, Casey Henry, John
Hedgecoth, Jason Carter, Ronnie McCoury, Alan O’Bryant, Roland White,
Robert Bowlin, Adam Olmstead, Butch Baldassarri, and Charlie Cushman.
 
Around
this time, Shawn Camp was looking for a mandolin picker to play some
gigs, and upon Mike Bub’s recommendation, Henry got the job that
continues to this day.  Along with teaching many lessons and camps,
Henry has become one of the most respected traditional bluegrass
musicians in Nashville.
 
The
family band traveled abroad in 2007 to perform at the Scotland
Bluegrass Festival.  The crowds were highly enthusiastic to hear the
Henry family bring their authentic brand of bluegrass across the water.
 
Henry
moved to Paducah, KY in spring of 2008 to join forces with the Bawn in
the Mash band who was gearing up to record their album “Confluence”,
which Chris engineered and produced in the summer.  The group fused
bluegrass and roots music together with rock and jam band influences to
create a new and interesting sound that was well received by their
audiences and in the press.
 
In
2009 he had the good fortune of getting more international exposure by
performing at the Calgary and Winnipeg Folk Festivals with Danny Barnes
and Mike Bub.  The trio was well received by Canadian audiences.
 
Returning 
to Nashville in early 2011, he started working on what would become his
album, Burns Station.  It is a Telecaster-based album that features 11
original songs, one original mandolin instrumental, and a Gamble Rogers
cover.  This album was well received in Nashville by his peers.  His
song “Walkin’ West to Memphis” was recorded by the Gibson Brothers and
went on to be a top five hit and was nominated for IBMA and SPGBMA Song
of the Year.
 
In
2012, Henry was offered an opportunity to host a weekly bluegrass night
in Nashville at Bootleggers Inn. This night has become one of the
favorite places for bluegrass in Nashville for musicians to congregate
and perform, and for fans to listen and enjoy the atmosphere.  He
debuted the first bluegrass band he has led, Chris Henry and the
Hardcore Grass, and has quickly gained a supportive local following.
 
“I’m
not afraid of the psychedelic or mystical, the earthy or the spiritual.
  To sacrifice any of the intensity is not something we’re willing to
do.  That’s what inspires me. It impresses me. It lets me feel God’s
grace and the gift. Not every bell is graceful, but I’m thirsty for it
and I try to find it everywhere.  It shows up in some pretty strange
places. 

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