If Americana has a northern cousin – Canadiana, perhaps? – Ottawa’s The John Henrys would be up at the top of the heap. Their latest release, Sweet as the Grain, conjures up all the best alt-country imagery – wide open spaces, empty shot glasses, vengeful hearts, and honest living.
Sweet as the Grain is the record that points out to Southerners what Canadian alt-country fans have known for some time – this band has kick-ass talent. At the root of it all is The John Henrys’ multi-instrumental dexterity; three members of the band play at least two instruments.
Because the quintet can switch instrumental gears so easily, each track on the record rings in turn with just the right mix of roots-rock staples – highlighted throughout are jangly guitar, organ, harmonica, lap steel, and honky-tonk piano. The tongue-in-cheek "Ain’t Gonna Drink No More" shows the band’s acoustic lighter side, while The John Henrys get heavy and gritty with the retro surf guitar of "Thought Yourself Lucky" and the mildly psychedelic "Padawadamie." Two tracks show the vocal range of The John Henrys; the title track (and disc opener) highlights the ability of all three vocalists to hit that charming country whine with their harmonies, while "New Years" purely growls about love’s angry side.
Sweet as the Grain has already topped the iTunes Canada Roots Album list and has reached as high as #5 on Canada Roots Radio charts. It’s obvious that the folks up north get The John Henrys – it’s time we did down here, too.
Sweet as the Grain is out now on 9 Pound Records.