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Beauty of The Henry Girls starts with harmonies

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., March 16, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Henry Girls were far from their homes in County Donegal, Ireland on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. But they seemed quite at home on this evening before a sold-out crowd intent on listening to their lovely, sister harmonies on country and Irish songs.

In fact, this was a rare chance to hear the group because they don't have a longstanding road warrior mentality. Although they formed more than a decade ago, the Henrys - three sisters - did not mount much of a touring schedule until two years ago. This was the final show of an eight-date tour that brought them to such diverse locales as Iowa for three shows, Illinois, Brooklyn, Vermont and Massachusetts. Although the trio just released "Louder Than Words" in February, it would be hard to argue that this was a tour promoting the disc because it's not readily available in the U.S.

The lack of heavy-duty touring or promotion did not seem to matter because with lovely voices and a multitude of quality songs, the music will come through every time.

The Celtic/country mash-up makes sense as there has been a longstanding connection between the two. The Henrys also threw in a jazzy feel on occasion, including their take on The Andrews Sisters (cited as an influence by the group) "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

They delivered a neat take on Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives," opting for more of a cute than piercing style of the original. This was not the type of song that one would expect The Henry Girls to tackle. So, credit for going left of center and doing a good job with it as well.

The vocal focus tended to be either on Lorna or Karen McLaughlin with the other often kicking in on harmonies. Joleen, the third sister (there are six in the family), contributed vocals as well, filling out the sound, although hers tended to be more in the background.

The Henry Girls also made smart choices when it came to instrumentation. Joleen excelled on harp playing throughout, giving the songs a more precious, pleasant sheen. Lorna often was on accordion and Karen on fiddle or ukulele, going for a more upbeat sound.

Ry Cavanaugh, a guitarist with local band Session Americana, gave the material more bite with electric guitar, but never overpowered The Henry Girls during his stint with them. Cavanaugh also enjoyed the chance to sing about five of his own songs.

Like the best of sibling bands, the beauty of the music of The Henry Girls started with vocals and took off from there.