Column, Rockin' The Region

Rockin’ the region with Phil Henry

By DJ Dave Hoffenberg

Drive-ins are no longer just for movies. In this Covid world, it’s a great way to see live music while social distancing. This Sunday in Brandon, don’t miss the album release party of Phil Henry and the News Feed at Jack McKernon Drive-in at Estabrook Field at 2 p.m. There is only room for 62 cars so get your tickets online at philhenrydrivein.eventbrite.com. Ticket sales stop at noon on Saturday. There will be a stage and sound system and you can watch from your car or bring a lawn chair to watch from near your car. The CD will be available for purchase at the show or you can go to philhenryband.com.

“Chasing Echoes” is Phil’s fifth studio album, releasing one every five years. Joining Phil (Guitar/Vocals) in The News Feed are: Brendan Coyle (Drums), Mitch Barron (Upright Bass/Fretless Electric Bass), Jeff Kimball (Keyboard/Synthesizers) and Jimmy Kalb (Fiddle). The last time they all played together was back in February. The album has many special guests, musical friends of Phil’s from near as Rutland and far as Hawaii. There are 23 musicians on the album.

We now live in a world where seeing live music is challenging. Imagine how hard it is to release music in this world.

“I was forced to think about how to release an album in a totally different way. Even recording this album was mostly done within Covid, sending tracks to various musicians to put in their home studios. This album was done during this quarantine and done during this Covid,” Henry said.

Challenging is an understatement. Phil normally would release the album and then have a series of CD release parties in Vermont and surrounding states. It wouldn’t be a tour because he’s not a touring guy but he would go out on the road to play some shows to support the release. “Barring all that and all the gigs we had to cancel this summer, we decided we would do a drive-in concert. This will be our last hurrah, well first and last,”  Henry added.

Phil started this album two years ago and said, “We only had three songs in the can but when things went down in March, I really started working on this thing. We worked pretty solid from March through July.”

Phil described the recording process, “I recorded some scratch vocals and guitar, sent it to my drummer in Burlington and then sent those tracks to the bass player. He sent those back to me and I added my real vocals and guitar on top of that, sent those on to my keyboard player to add all kinds of more stuff and then I started pulling in special guests from all over the place.” Some people had elaborate home studios and some Phil had to talk through the process to make it work. Phil did all the editing, mixing and put it all together. For the first time with his albums, he sent it to a mastering engineer in Philadelphia.

I was fortunate to get an early preview of “Chasing Echoes” with a few songs detailed below. There are 16 amazing tracks and every song kept becoming a favorite of mine. This album will have you tapping your feet, singing along and eventually get you up dancing. Phil’s vocals are smooth and his band is tight with their playing and harmonies. All the lyrics are easy to understand and follow along with. I will be listening to this on repeat. I hope to see you at the show this Sunday – if not make sure you buy this. You will not be disappointed.

(1) “Pompeii” – I like the percussion that starts the song and then the guitar comes in and you get in the groove. It’s a feel good song and great way to kick off the album. The harmonies are on point.

(2) “Missed The Show”– I really dig this one because it talks about Woodstock and the great bands that played it. Phil is a good story teller.

(4) “There Be Monsters Here” – This song has a bluegrass feel to it right from the start with banjo, accordion and fiddle. Hard to pick a favorite from this album but this might be it.

(7) “California Stars” – I loved this song right from the start. For some reason I knew this song was special and then I checked the liner notes to see it features Krishna Guthrie with additional vocals from George Nostrand and Phil. That’s a powerful trio and all favorite musicians of mine. This is a Billy Bragg & Wilco cover but the reason it’s so special is because it was written by Woody Guthrie who is Krishna’s great grandfather. Henry said, “This was a nice little nod to his family tree.”

(9) “Saturday Night At The Hot Sara” – This song has a Roaring Twenties feel to it, upbeat ragtime that you can dance along to. One lyric is, “the joint is jumping” and this whole song is. Jimmy Kalb’s fiddle is amazing here.

(15) “Shadow Of The Moon” – Every song on this album is a hit song. This is a jammer. It’s rocking with some bluegrass thrown in. The vocals are great but it’s the band that shines here. Fiddle, accordion, electric and acoustic guitar and lots of percussion.

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