Waiting For Henry is best described as a brand new band of old-school friends. Dave Slomin is an extremely humble guy who sent me tracks for his new record with the twice repeated message, “I hope [the record] doesn’t suck too much for you.” And the short answer to that obviously overly polite statement would be that it definitely doesn’t.
Waiting For Henry reminds me of another great East Coast group called The Grip Weeds. Stylistically the two are light years apart, but compositionally speaking, they are two rare examples that understand great songs, use great stories and construction methods far beyond the two-chord tango to stick in the mind of the listener.
For those who may or may not recall, Slomin was the singer and guitarist for another great band in the ‘90s called Mr. Henry.
The ‘90s were very good to Mr. Henry. They were signed to EMI and Deep South after a whirlwind rise that included a monumental showcase at SXSW in 1996. Their pseudo country meets blue-collar alternative jangle often had them compared with groups of the day such as The Replacements and Gin Blossoms. Speaking of those well-known outfits, Mr. Henry actually used producer John Hampton (Niko Bolas, Dave Bryson, The Replacements and Gin Blossoms) to hone Jackhammer, their 1998 breakthrough record.
The band was also in high demand on the road, becoming a constant touring companion for the likes of Counting Crows as well as Iggy Pop.
But even though they became major label princes, press favorites and New York City alt rock kingpins, there just wasn’t enough karma in the kingdom, and the band went on hiatus in 2001.
However, Slomin has always kept the spirit of Mr. Henry alive in his heart, and he has circled back with a new band and a master plan to take him back into the rock and roll arena that he’s held in his sights these last 12 years.
Slomin told me via email, “Waiting For Henry actually started out as a reincarnated Mr. Henry, as I wanted to get back to the ‘band thing’ after releasing a solo album in 2006. After a couple of fits and starts, the right songs came together, and while sounding very ‘Henry,’ it really wasn’t ‘Mr.’ with the original Hanks on to other things. So, Waiting For Henry was born.”
I’m always amazed at the tenacity at anyone in the business to survive and counterattack for a win. The band’s latest album launches a full, 11-song salvo against the present state on the industry with reminiscent sounds of the past. In a world consumed with the putrefying pabulum of Justin Beiber and Kanye West, it’s a welcome breath of fresh and honest air.
Waiting For Henry is a “back to the future” band that holds its own in a genre ruled by current kings such as Red Wanting Blue and Gaslight Anthem. Utilizing a no-nonsense trio performance, the band is a guitar lover’s dream that pays homage to the indie bands that left an indelible mark on generations of twang-addicted dreamers.
Their brand new album is called Ghosts & Compromise, and it revisits the sounds of the late ‘80s and early 90s when music was heading in bold new directions while at the same time utilizing contemporary techniques and tones (courtesy of engineer and mixmaster Joe Dell’Aquila) to back their gritty attack.
Moving around the disc, I’ve done my best to describe some of the songs that caught me from the get-go.
“Here Comes The Rain” rolls off the assembly line in a method that can only be described as REM meets The Monkees on firewater. Slomin’s clear, powerful vocal leads this trio like a diesel locomotive as guitars growl, bend and clang in agreeable overtones and dynamic rises. Slomin’s six-string style would make Peter Buck set down his Martini and take quick notice. The bass and drum work of Michael Chun and Dave Ashdown guide this American country truck stop traveler straight down Route 66.
“Buy American” stirs up dirty, dusty images of Kentucky Headhunters as the band mid-tempos down the highway to allegiance. Melodic structures flex and bend under the heavy weight of Slomin’s plaintive, country wail. Lyrics flow fast, painting pictures of traditional heartland patriotism as guitars roll off distortion-laced plains and clear the path for guest drummer Neil Nunziato’s in the pocket gallop.
Another smartly done gem is “Wish You The Moon.” Slomin and crew prove the point that music still lives in the heartlands as they chug and pump through Tom Petty vibed verses and choruses bigger than the Grand Canyon. Melodically, this band seems to have learned much from close friends The Counting Crows. Slomin’s choice of melody is spot on, complementing the simple, effective musical methods of his bandmates. Guitars tear jagged swaths of chorded voicings that hail the chorus while bass king Dave Ashdown shadows the guitar riff like a barracuda under a school of fish. Slomin drives straight up the middle eight with a Mike Campbell-inspired lead break that is tuned, toned and filled with emotive bends. Slomin comes back off the limb to drop into an explosive bridge before the whole band braces for a string bending passage into the final amazing verse.
“Incomplete Me” comes in on a wall of tube-fueled guitar shimmer, paving the way to Slomin’s John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls)-tinged vocal. Melancholy visions of love through an American window fly under the precise ministrations of Slomin, who, with the able assist of backing vocals from Ashdown, Chun and a host of friends, raise this song into my list of top picks on the disc. Minor keys fly in bridges of melodic fury as Slomin pulls off a Doug Hopkins (Gin Blossoms)-inspired lead riff that left me shaking my head in awe.
“Cayuga Why” is pure ‘80s reminiscence and reminds me of the big, bold tones of bands like The Psychedelic Furs and The Godfathers. The song leans in on dirty clean, melodically picked guitars before going sonic in the bridge and chorus. Background vocals wail high above slashing, guitar shimmer as Slomin whisks the listener through ambushes of alt rock imagery. I’m a significant fan of the guitar work on this entire record, and Slomin is no slouch when it comes to manipulating open string dissonance and chord voicings.
I didn’t have space to do this whole record justice, but it’s a recording that resides in my keeper collection at the office. The band’s sound, captured on Ghosts & Compromise, purposefully echoes the undying influence the original indie bands of the ‘80s & ‘90s have had on its brethren. The unapologetically gritty rebellion of The Replacements, the melodic jangle of REM and the back porch Americana twang of The Felice Brothers are all in there, and it’s waiting for you to revisit the past while applauding this band’s bright destiny.
You’ll be able to see Waiting For Henry in person on Saturday, July 13 at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ.
Waiting For Henry is: Dave Slomin on lead vocals & guitar, Dave Ashdown aka Dashdown (Braam, Billhouse and BoomHank) on drums, guitar & vocals, and Michael Chun on bass. Other mentionable friends include Andrew Hollander who plays organ, piano and accordion, Carla Capretto who sings on “Riverside,” and Neil Nunziato, who plays drums on “Buy American.”
For more information on Waiting For Henry and Ghosts & Compromise, head to waitingforhenry.com.