Henry follows legacy of music
Winchester — Most of the songs on Chris Henry’s new solo album started as a birthday present for his mother.
In 2012, Chris wrote 60 songs in honor of his mother Murphy Hicks Henry of Frederick County, was was turning 60. Pleased with the results, he used 13 of them as a jumping-off point and wrote a few more songs to create “Making My Way to You.”
The result, he said, is an album that shows the diversity he has embraced in his music, said Chris, 32, of Nashville, Tenn. His main instruments are mandolin and guitar.
“There is hard-core bluegrass, more folksy stuff, straight country and some more Americana stuff,” said Chris, who graduated from James Wood High School in 1999. “There is even some rock mixed in there.”
For this album, released in March, Chris decided to do something a little different — offer it for free. Although he is still selling the CDs, a free downloadable version is available at noisetrade.com/chrishenry (with a suggested tip of $6).
The decision to offer the music at no charge was intended to expand his name recognition and to make the work accessible to a wider group of people, he said.
Chris wrote all of the songs except “Gone,” which he co-wrote with his girlfriend Sarah Sellari.
That skill as a songwriter has been a passion for Chris all of his life, Murphy Henry said. One of the “consistent threads throughout his childhood and into adulthood” has been how much he loved to write music, regardless of the genre.
For Murphy, who is also a musician, watching the development of her son’s musical career has been “euphoric,” so she was proud to see him complete an album that showcased so many of his talents.
“On his latest CD, he played almost all the instruments, did all the arrangements and sings most of the harmonies. It is kind of mind-boggling,” she said.
Music has always been a part of Chris’ life. His mother played banjo “on top of my head for nine months when I was in the womb,” he said. To this day, he finds the instrument calming and peaceful.
Murphy and her husband Red have had a long career in bluegrass music, and they passed their passion onto their children Chris and Casey. When they were old enough, the family performed bluegrass as Red and Murphy and their Excellent Children.
Murphy and Red are “extremely proud” of Chris and support him in following his dreams, she said. They know from experience that the profession isn’t always easy, but also provides great joy. “It takes a lot of strength and courage and you have to be a little bit crazy.”
The range of music on the album is not only in music genres but also in the styles and mood they contain, Chris said.
“Nothing Left But the Blues” is “straight up hard-core bluegrass” in the style of Bill Monroe or Del McCoury.
The title song, “Making My Way to You,” is more mellow and introspective, he said. “It is not anything flashy, but it has a nice melody and a nice thought to it.”
Another tune, “Incarceration,” is a lonesome number that features guitar and bass, he said. “That narrates the experience of sitting in jail waiting to get out.”
Murphy’s favorite song is “Time,” which she found “very spiritual.” She loves the times when her son sings in a low register, which is how the song starts.
She also likes “Robot Dreams,” which added vocals by Sellari singing about being a robot and not knowing it, Murphy said. “I think it is very clever.”
Also featured on the album are Jason Carter, playing fiddle, and Smith Curry, who joined in on pedal steel guitar and dobro for four songs, Chris said.
Fellow musician Thomas Oliverio praised the diversity of Chris’s album, calling him a “talented musician and an exceptional bluegrass musician.”
The pair have known each other since 2008, when Thomas decided to strengthen his mandolin skills and took lessons from Chris. Later that year, Chris produced an album called “Confluence” for Thomas’s Americana band, Bawn in the Mash.
“When I first heard Chris playing with some of my friends, I thought ‘that guy sounds like he has it down,’” said Thomas, a Nashville resident. “He is very creative and has a lot of character in his songs.”
Chris has experimented with a wide range of musical genres through the years. He started with the bluegrass of his parents. As a teenager, he began playing first rock and then heavy metal and punk rock. Later, he added rap and hip-hop to his repertoire.
“I think it is really important to try to be real with yourself and your songwriting and your art,” he said. “That is something I always pushed myself to be better at — to be honest with myself and put that good heart energy into the music.”
— Contact Laura McFarland email@example.com