Waiting For Henry assembled in 2010 as a group of former college bandmates, reuniting to record the album they had never made years ago. Through the 1990s, WFH’s members went their own musical ways, with Dave Slomin breaking through with his NYC-based band, Mr. Henry, which signed to EMI Music and Deep South Records after a major showcase at 1996’s SXSW Festival.
Mr. Henry’s music captured a unique place between the newly rising alt-country of Wilco and Whiskeytown and the earthy American pop rock of acts like Gin Blossoms. The band recorded with renowned producers John Hampton (Replacements, Gin Blossoms), Niko Bolas (Neil Young) and Dave Bryson (Counting Crows) and toured constantly, headlining clubs and opening for bands as widely varied as Counting Crows and Iggy Pop.
Dave Ashdown followed a similar route to the road through the Chicago music scene of the 1990s, playing drums and guitar and touring with acclaimed bands Boom Hank, Braam, and Billhouse. Rounding out the original trio, Mike Chun is a veteran of the NYC club scene and a former member of renowned Hampton’s party band Hot Lava. Fellow Hot Lava and Davenport’s drummer Rob Draghi joined in 2015.
On their first album, the band looked to the past to meet the future, and on Town Called Patience, WFH is going back once again. After happily finding that so many reviewers and fans recognized their early R.E.M. influences, the band figured they’d try and venture further down that alley.
This time, WFH put their ’80s indie, meets ’90s alt-country influences in the hands of guru producer Mitch Easter, the man responsible for R.E.M.’s first two masterpieces Murmur and Reckoning. Rather than a departure from Ghosts, the new album, a year in the making, is a maturation in song, craft, and energy. Recorded at Mitch’s Kernersville, NC studio, Fidelitorium, as well as NJ studios Lakehouse in Asbury Park and Exeter in Freehold, the record’s guitarscape features not only the band’s own vintage instruments but also many of the same guitars that Mitch lent to Peter Buck for the recording of Murmur.
The 12 songs that underpin this American ride were mixed by Darrell Thorp, Grammy Award-winning mixer of Beck’s Morning Phase. For mastering, through Mitch, patience found its way to Greg Calbi, Zen master of such albums of Born To Run, Damn The Torpedoes and, of course, R.E.M.’s Murmur.
Town Called Patience will have a special release for fans at NYC’s Mercury Lounge on Saturday, June 4, and will be released to radio and the world later this summer. The band is itching at the bit to get out of the studio and back into the clubs. Expect a gritty symphony of decided imperfection… mostly in the Key of G.
Setting the pace and starting things off is a song called “Musconetcong.” As said earlier, the band embraces their early lineage rather than trying to change things with styles that may or may not work, and this is great music. Guitars are toned and jangly for days, mixing jagged open chord arrangements with agreeable and addictive melodies that work on all the right levels. Dave Slomin’s vocals are powerful and reminiscent of singers such as Michael Stipe from R.E.M., Johnny Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.
Up next is a song called “Gutterball.” Taking its lead from the mighty ’80s, “Gutterball” mixes clean and grungy guitars with pounding drums and bass as Slomin tells his story of savior, redemption and the ultimate mistakes of life in general. The guitars work well with Slomin’s melodic vocal choices and this is classic rock composition with a great edge of alternative sound.
“Hangnail” is up next and eases out of the speakers with all of the country-tinged angst of Jason And The Scorchers. A ballad by nature, “Hangnail” moves along at an easy and believable pace. The bridges are smooth and asymmetrically powerful as they wind up the Nashville chorus section. This song reminds me of old Replacements from the Let It Be time period, and it’s a winner.
“Flipclock” bounces out of the speakers with hooky, melodic romp through fields of pop-flavored balladry in the vein of Soul Asylum. Chimey, sing-song vocal arrangements swing wide as guitars, bass and drums add individual embellishments to the overall piece. Short and precise, “Flipclock” has something for anyone that’s a fan of traditional rock music.
Bouncing around the disc, I came to a song called “Could It Be.” It’s interesting to note as mentioned before that these songs were indeed recorded with some of the very same guitars used on one of R.E.M.’s biggest records and that comes across well here. Slomin and Ashdown provide some extremely tasty licks here as they do throughout and their vocal contributions are just as stellar.
Another cool tune and the disc namesake is “Town Called Patience.” Utilizing great guitar bends and outstanding vocal harmonies, “Town Called Patience” brings me back to the days of great bands like Firefall and the Eagles. Slomin’s vocal style is both laidback and agreeable. His lyrical expertise comes from years and years of constant refinement and he paints a luxurious aural picture of his stories. The band pops and sizzles, moving under his vocal ministrations with ease and talent.
The last song on this engaging disc is called “In The End.” Combining a quiet, yet stormy mixture of musical accompaniment and lyrical chagrin, “In The End” captures the talents of a band with something to say in a manner that still holds rock and roll up high on the pedestal that it deserves. Guitars swirl and pick throughout as drums and bass lock this alternative-based number to the tarmac.
I covered Waiting For Henry back in 2013 when they released Raising A Toast To Everyone’s Ghost and I loved that record and now Town Called Patience continues that passion I have for this band’s direction and musical growth. While I didn’t cover every song on this 12-song disc, I would suggest picking it up to listen to for yourselves. If you’re a fan of rock music in the tradition of R.E.M., Whiskeytown and Wilco, you are going to love Town Called Patience.
As mentioned before, Waiting For Henry will be unveiling their disc this Saturday, June 4, at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. Their special show guests will be Dusty Right’s Giant Fingers and Blue Plate Special. Details can be found over at mercuryloungenyc.com or at Waiting For Henry’s Facebook page at facebook.com/waitingforhenry.