The Henry Girls
There’s a Vietnamese proverb that says "siblings are as close as hands and feet.” One listen to THE HENRY GIRLS and you’re compelled to add “vocal chords” to the phrase. Comprised of sisters Karen, Lorna, and Joleen McLaughlin, The Henry Girls give a master class in harmony, effortlessly and flawlessly weaving together Irish roots and Americana influences into a rich tapestry of song. Actually, this is no cliched “musical tapestry.” This is a warm, wool blanket on a rainy day. This is the tablecloth your great-grandmother made that adorns the coffee table in the summertime. This is The Henry Girls’ latest offering, LOUDER THAN WORDS.
Thanks to strong family genes (including those of their grandfather, Henry, their collective namesake), Karen, Lorna, and Joleen have been bending ears as The Henry Girls for over a decade across numerous recordings. By 2010, they were nominated for an Irish Film & Television Award for Best Original Score for their contributions to the soundtrack of A Shine of Rainbows. Their previous album, December Moon, garnered rave reviews from press on both sides of the Atlantic. Now they offer their sixth studio album, Louder Than Words. Veteran producer Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Stéphane Grappelli, Carol Kidd) returns on this album, which was recorded on The Henry Girls’ native soil in Co. Donegal, Ireland, and mixed and mastered in Scotland (their mother’s birthplace). Louder Than Words features a wide assortment of instrumentation and textures, but manages to feel concise and natural. Karen, Lorna, and Joleen make extensive use of their shared understanding and musical abilities, trading instruments and vocal duties back and fourth throughout the album’s ten tracks.
At the center of the album is a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Reasons to Believe.” Enlisting the help of Liam Bradley’s drums and percussion, Ted Ponsonby’s resonator guitar, and The Inishowen Gospel Choir’s powerful restraint, The Henry Girls submit a beautifully driving rendition of the American-heartland tune. Throughout, Louder Than Words features stories of heartbreak (“James Monroe”), unrequited love (“So Long but Not Goodbye”), and regret and uncertainty (“The Light in the Window,” “Home,” “It’s Not Easy”). The Inishowen Gospel Choir returns twice more throughout the tracklist, all the way into the final, swelling, mercy of “Here Beside Me.” As producer Calum hops on the Hammond, the voices swell together: “You with me, here beside me, is all I really need,” and you get the sense that they could just as easily be talking about family, about their neighbors, their hometown postal workers, the people who make up a vibrant community. You can almost hear echoes of fellow Irishman Bono saying “these are the hands that built America.” Yes, The Henry Girls are indeed building something with Louder Than Words, and it comes from Irish, Scottish, and American roots. But this is a new world. A world that could only be born out of the shared imagination of three sisters sitting at the kitchen table, finishing each others’ sentences. And you’re there, hanging on every word, every note, just like the hem of your great-grandmother’s tablecloth hanging over the edge of that very table.