There are only a few musicians who make you wonder if it's really as easy as it looks. Who make you crane your neck to see how many people are up on stage because you can't believe all the sounds and textures emanating from one place. Who you feel compelled to seek out and thank after the show, because you were absolutely transported by their contributions. This is how people feel after hearing Jim Henry play. Henry's longtime reputation as a phenomenal all-around musician is well-deserved. He can do it all: play most things stringed, sing lead or harmony, write great songs, produce, engineer and arrange. Four solo recordings and literally hundreds of tracks on other people's recordings have cemented his position as one of the most versatile and talented musicians working in acoustic music today. Fans first discovered Jim Henry in the Sundogs, an eclectic 'swamp-boogie-swing' band that was one of New England's hottest touring club and dance hall bands in the late 80's/early 90's. In 1993, Henry released his debut solo disc, Into the Blue, whose title track garnered national praise and attracted the interest of the Massachusetts-based Signature Sounds Recordings, who signed him in 1995. That year, Henry released Jacksonville, which hit the upper reaches of the Gavin Americana chart and received significant airplay throughout the country. In 1997, Jim joined with acoustic axe man and label-mate Brooks Williams to record Ring Some Changes, a soulful album of guitar duets which continues to be a favorite among fans. Never straying too far from his small-town roots, Henry released The Wayback in 1999, whose title track is an anthem to the importance of family. The disc, recorded live and unedited, features cream-of-the-crop players including Doug Plavin (Dar Williams, Bill Morrissey), Richard Gates (Patty Larkin, Richard Thompson, Suzanne Vega) and Kevin Barry (Paula Cole, Mary Chapin Carpenter). Whether it's the slow burn of 'Leaving Time' or the foot-stompin', drivin-too-fast cover of Carl Perkins' 'Restless,' the musicianship on this CD is fresh and jaw-droppingly good. Henry is currently on tour with Tracy Grammer. When the Oregon-based Grammer needed an east coast accompanist in fall 2003, she put out the call and Jim Henry was the first name on the lips of people in the know. In only three days, Henry learned the lion's share of the Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer repertoire. Grammer and Henry's first show at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass. Went so well they have been playing together ever since. 'I expected Jim Henry to be a solid player, but I was unprepared for his sensitivity and subtlety on stage, and that voice,' Grammer explains. 'He is a consummate musician, a strong and vital presence who understands what it means to serve the song, who knows how to build a mood. He has a stunning array of textures and styles at his fingertips, and impeccable taste. My show works because Jim Henry is on the gig. Period.' Grammer's two most recent recordings, The Verdant Mile (2004) and Flower of Avalon (2005), feature Henry on dobro, mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric guitars and backing vocals -- something on every track.
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