I met Don Rooke for the first time in 2014 while rehearsing for an Art of Time show he was guesting on.
Don is a composer, guitarist (known for his slide kona playing), late to the game lyricist and for more than 30 years the singular brilliant adventurer behind The Henrys, a class act of alternative music before there was ever such a thing as alternative music. He is also very, very, very funny…the “leave you crying on the phone/ floor” kind of funny. He is also hilarious in text. And dark. I don’t think I’d be the first person to point out the corollary between hilarious/dark–brilliant artist. He doesn’t go for flash, and if you sat beside him on the bus you’d never guess you were sitting beside someone who was renowned throughout many parts of the world as something of a vanguard of accessible Western modern music. Typically, a Henry’s record pushes into creaky sonic territory via left of centre harmonic approaches that seem to flirt with brainy only because they are inventive but the tunes never really leave the territory of the heart…or of groove, for that matter.
In the fall of 2014, Don wrote to ask if I’d be interested in singing on a new Henrys record he had been working on in the basement of his house for almost a year. While much of the band’s repertoire had been instrumental, they did have various vocalist take up residencies…women, mostly, as far as I can recall…including the notoriously talented Mary Margaret O’Hara, who not only lent her voice to the band but also lyrics from her grocery bag. For this new recording, Don wrote all the lyrics and, with the exception of my concert appearances with Art of Time, this would be the first time I would record someone else’s words on someone else’s songs. My literal interpretation of some of the lyrics was hilariously wrong (like the song I thought was about spirituality but was actually about a football game) and for the most part it was a crash course in how to let go of preconceived notions and be intimate with a stranger…2 things I’m not so good at, so I was grateful for the lessons.
“Quiet Industry” is a beautiful recording and it became available in 2015. It is, of course, ALL great but if I was asked to pick my faves, Reel Me In Gently, When That Far Shore Disappears, and The Almighty Inbox come to mind immediately. In the winter of 2020, we had planned a couple of local gigs to celebrate the recording, but these were obviously derailed by the viral shenanigans going on. It will be a joy to sing these songs again eventually.
Sept 10, 2020