The John Henrys

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“Their music emerges from rich traditions, but the John Henrys landscape is their own. They straddle the divide between sweet country and 60’s R&B, and they do it in their own distinct way.”
CBC Radio 3

"If Gram Parsons, Neil Young, The Band and Otis Redding had an orgy... You might get something like this."
Chart Magazine

“The John Henrys' Sweet as the Grain is a rootsy masterpiece.”
Allan Wigney – Ottawa Sun

“A twangy twist feel good vibe.”
Tim Perlich – Now Magazine

Although four band members contribute to the songwriting – songs that are rich in storytelling tradition, it is the band’s unmistakable musicianship that suggests The John Henrys are not as traditional as the legendary character of their namesake.

The John Henry of popular folklore, and immortalized in dozens of traditional folk songs, was a giant of a man who labored laying railway tracks and digging tunnels. He challenged the first steam powered drilling machine to a race to determine what was stronger – man or machine. His superhuman effort won him the race, after which he immediately died of exhaustion.

“We picked the The John Henrys for our name because the story is such an inspiration”, says vocalist/ guitarist Rey Sabatin Jr, whose First Nations and Acadian heritage, along with his day job as a luthier, are reflected in the band’s Cajun influenced yet precise musical arrangements. Rey, along with Steve Tatone (keyboards) Doug Gouthro (Guitar) Daryl Quinlan (Bass), and Geoff Ward (Drums) have been creating music and working together since 2003, writing, arranging and rehearsing so many songs that they have trouble deciding what to play in a live set.

Their self-titled debut album, released locally in their Ottawa, Ontario, hometown in 2004 went all the way to #1 on the influential college radio station CKCU, and was featured extensively on CBC radio, who asked the band to perform on their nationally broadcast “Definitely Not The Opera” program. Over the next few years while all holding down full time day jobs, the band performed selectively - more concerned with writing songs than being road warriors - accepting invitations to perform with in-the-know artists like The Sadies, Cuff the Duke, The Golden Dogs, Elliot Brood, and Femme-bots.

In 2006, The John Henrys recorded their sophomore album ‘Sweet as the Grain’. Produced by the band themselves at their rehearsal-turn-studio space, ‘Sweet as the Grain’ is a remarkable album considering the youth of its creators – all under 25 years of age. Songs like “Lost in the Canyon” and the title track are sweetly laid back alt-country, while the angry and “New Years” and tongue-in-cheek “No More Rock n Roll” and “Ain’t Gonna Drink No More” keep the album interesting with variety and humor.

“Sweet as the Grain is a a rootsy masterpiece – a glorious romp through country lanes with the occasional detour into the garage.” Alan Wigney, Ottawa Sun. With testaments like this, the band will have to hit the road – they’ll just have to work out what songs to cut from the set each night.