Joyous Porous

VF61•Goodbye Porkpie Hat Joyous Porous One Body Strangel Thought You’d Never AskI Don’t Need To Be Here Serious Maybe The Pool Jumper Li’l Miss Demeanor Lipstick, Ferrous Scrap Maria Elena Midwife Crisis Travel Notes From AZ Before Yes Walk West (Til Your Hat Floats)
Serious Maybe
Lipstick, Ferrous Scrap

ALL RECORDINGS: Paydirt (2020)Quiet Industry (2015)Is This Tomorrow (2009)Joyous Porous (2002)Desert Cure (1998)Chasing Grace (1996)Puerto Angel (1994)The Yearly Ears (dig.comp.’94-98) • Coasting Notes (2011 by Three Metre Day)Atlas Travel (2003)

“It makes Friends of Dean Martinez sound like Blueshammer.” Exclaim Magazine          

Joyous Porous is from 2002, and has a nice 
lineup of Toronto musicians – the great bass 
player David Piltch (now in Santa Barbara, 
but he grew up here), Jorn Andersen, a 
masterful drummer; Hugh Marsh, peerless
violinist, John Sheard, a longtime Henry 
and keyboard ace, Michael White and his 
beautiful trumpet sound, and of course Mary 
Margaret O’Hara. 

There are several tracks from it on the 
listening page, and reviews below.

VF61, track one, Joyous Porous. Performed on TVO c. 2004


Among all the infectious noise being made 
by acoustic slide guitar players in recent 
times, Toronto kona player Don Rooke and 
his ensemble of like-minded abstract sound 
architects stand out on their fourth album as 
the high-minded intellectuals in their class, 
the quiet scientists scratching away at the 
borders of the folk/time continuum while the 
other guys are staging a hootenanny. “Old 
instruments, new sounds” is the way Rooke 
describes what The Henrys do – they use 
sophisticated recording and playing 
techniques and elaborate audio processes 
to extract from a resonator guitar and other 
plucked acoustic instruments the harmonics, 
overtones and oblique noises behind the 
rustic notes to create landscapes that are 
astonishingly romantic, frightening, sexual, 
spiritual – and quite beautiful. Brave new 

-Toronto Star review by Greg Quill, 
December 14, 2002


The Henrys have never been a band keen to 
sacrifice quality for quantity. Centred on the 
compelling fretwork of bandleader Don 
Rooke, the enigmatic septet has released 
four albums since 1994’s excellent debut 
Puerto Angel. It’s been more than enough to 
secure The Henrys a place as one of 
Canada’s most intriguing ensembles. The 
long-awaited followup to 1998’s Desert 
Cure, Joyous Porous again delivers the 
goods in grand fashion: the haunting slide of 
Rooke’s National Steel darts in and out of 
the cinematic, dream-like instrumentals like 
sharp bursts of essential dialogue – always 
refined, soulful and to the point. The Henrys 
all-inclusive sound – a flickering fusion of 
languid blues, darting jazz, ambient musings 
and fragmented folk – is a subtle, organic 
thing of beauty.

-Ottawa XPress, review by Steve Baylin

Music became a thing when the first 
recording was made, and music ever since 
has tended to become more thing-like and 
less situational. A studio recording that feels 
like a situation is truly a rare entity, and 
eventful in the fullest sense of the 
word.Music as situation requires rules, and a 
shared approach, but also demands enough 
freedom for sounds to find their way to the 
places where they need to be. In a word, it 
needs to be porous, and that’s a joyous 
state indeed on the best tracks of this fourth 
album from the Toronto-based ensemble 
The Henrys.

Don Rooke, the group’s main writer and lead 
guitarist, has a soft spot for front-parlour 
roots music. But he’s equally drawn to a kind 
of cool abstraction that creeps up on his 
old-seeming tunes, and subjects them to an 
analytic, postnostalgic fondling.

The rough outlines of the method will be 
familiar to anyone who has heard a few Bill 
Frisell records, though the tone and the 
temper are quite different. Frisell mainly 
plays electrics, but Rooke’s core 
instruments in The Henrys are the kona, the 
Weissenborn and the National Steel. These 
are all vintage acoustic guitars, and they 
provide him with a range of throaty, 
atmospheric sounds, and the basis for a 
meditative slide style. The Henrys love thick 
natural sounds like those of the pump organ 
that clacks and surges at the start of the title 
tune, and juicy old electronics such as the 
Mellotron, the Theremin, and the Arp 

The density of the timbres allows for a kind 
of short-hand that suits the group’s brainy, 
yet sensual, style. With just a few chords on 
the Weissenborn, Rooke can open a deep 
blues space in VF61,the opening track, then 
follow the groove into a strange pentatonic 
octave unison with bassist David Piltch, 
while trumpeter Michael White peppers the 
scene with distant aphorisms. It takes only a 
few acid guitar chords and a hustling rhythm 
line to set the stage for the drawling bluesy 
arioso that Mary Margaret O’Hara drops into 
One Body. This track feels like the antithesis 
of the neatly made studio number, though 
only on the groove-based Li’l Ms Demeanor 
did O’Hara (who contributes to six tracks in 
all) apparently wing it straight to tape.

There are two covers: Maria Elena,a 
genuinely old and sentimental tune from the 
thirties, and Charles Mingus’s Goodbye 
Porkpie Hat,in a version so brilliantly 
understated as to make virtually every note a 
poem. Almost everything here works on first 
hearing, and works even better after that.

Globe and Mail, Robert Everett-Green


The Henrys are at it again. And it’s glorious.

In a world full of wannabe slide people and 
instrumental crapola, Don Rooke and 
company have again distinguished 
themselves as one of the most outstanding 
and original outfits we’ve ever heard.

Why is it so hard to find music this original? 
Because it takes talent, first of all, and 
because it’s damn hard to make a living 
when you’re this musically fearless. God 
bless the Toronto Arts Council (and the 
Music Section of the Canada Council for the 
Arts), what a civilized country that is. I swear, 
half of the great music I hear anymore is 
coming from Canada.

“Recorded at Cellars and Spare 
Bedrooms,” Joyous Porous finds our sonic 
heroes in outrageous form. As you might 
have gathered from our previous review of 
this stellar band, The Henrys are essentially 
comprised of slide master Don Rooke (yo!), 
trumpetist Michael White, and bassist David 
Piltch. The unbelievable guest melodies and 
vocals of Mary Margaret O’Hara send chills 
right up my spine every time, Lord Almighty!

The compositions are as good as the 
playing is, and that’s saying an awful lot. On 
top of that, the renditions of Charles Mingus’ 
“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and the 30s classic 
“Maria Elena” are right outta this frickin 
world. These folks are deeply whacked and 
profoundly talented.

I’m not kidding. Get this album, it will help 
you open up your mind and your spirit. Most 
records today will not do that. They’re 
conceived with too many parameters and 
expectations in mind. I don’t get the 
impression here that there’s anything 
necessarily hanging in the balance of the 
CD’s acceptance, and the unique beauty of 
the work is, on the other hand, unmistakable.

Don Rooke’s tone on the kona makes me 
wanna cry, it’s so pure. It’s an antique 
instrument from the 20s made of koa wood 
and played with a steel bar. I love The 
Henrys, and wish there were more groups 
like them around. Instead of all these 

PureMusic, Frank Goodman, October 2002


The Henrys, il progetto del canadese Don 
Rooke, sono certamente una band unica nel 
panorama attuale. Mischiano il suono di Ry 
Cooder con le ricercatezze di Bill Frisell. Il 
risultato è un collage, in parte strumentale, di 
musica solare e sperimentale al tempo 
stesso. E poi, come ciliegina sulla torta, c’è 
la dolce Mary Margaret O’Hara.

-Buscadero Magazine, Italy, review by Junior 


When they’re on their game, the Henrys 
sound like no one else. After establishing 
and refining a sound over four albums, 
largely built around Don Rooke’s woozy 
slide guitar, the Toronto group are now 
happy to gurgle away in their own peculiar 
language. In its best moments, Joyous 
Porous’s mix of twanging steel, wheezing 
pump organs and Mary Margaret O’Hara’s 
elastic vocals is completely disorienting. A 
cover of Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat 
only reveals itself a few minutes in as the riff 
peeks out from behind a haze of guitars, 
while more straightforward moments, like 
the O’Hara-driven Strangel, verge on pure 
pop. Utterly alien but oddly familiar at the 
same time.

-NOW Magazine, review by Matt Galloway

Don Rooke is a master of two distinct 
sounding guitars: the Weissenborn and the 
Hawaiian Kona. From both he extracts 
sweeping and exquisite beauty, and he’s 
best known for doing so on Mary Margaret 
O’Hara’s recordings (she returns the favour 
by vocalising with The Henrys). Past Henrys 
records have been intoxicating rainy day 
records, even if they occasionally ventured 
into CBC musical segue territory. Joyous 
Porous, however, finds the Henrys taking a 
leap into considerably more experimental 
waters, where it’s all about languid texture 
and much less about traditional song 
structure. It makes Friends of Dean Martinez 
sound like Blueshammer. In the 
cinematically capable hands of Rooke and 
company, including O’Hara, bassist David 
Piltch, violinist Hugh Marsh and others, just 
about anything is possible.

-Exclaim! magazine, review by Michael 


Either The Henrys see the eerieness of their 
world through a haze of nostalgia, or they 
see nostalgia through a haze of eerieness; 
either way, their music has a strangely 
timeless feel. The group weaves webs of 
sound around Don Rooke’s spidery National 
Steel and Weissenborn guitar lines. Often, 
beguiling patterns emerge as melodies and 
rhythms jump out; elsewhere, quirky 
atmospherics get stuck into cobwebs. Fans 
take note: Mary Margaret O’Hara appears on 
six tracks, the best of which, “Strangel,” will 
induce Miss America flashbacks.”

-Eye Magazine, review by Mike Doherty, Eye 


Those with a reasonably intact memory will 
recollect the Henrys’ excellent earlier 
albums (ref fR158/9 and fRoots 6 CD). 
They’re an intriguing Canadian output mixing 
progressive rootsy sort-of-acoustic sounds 
centred around various slidey things played 
by Don Rooke (Weissenborns, Konas, 
Nationals, lap steels etc.), and always 
including some vocalisation by the enigmatic 
and reclusive Mary Margaret O’Hara.

Well, if you do, and if news of another – their 
fourth, and first since 1998’s Desert Cure – 
tickles your fancy, then you’ll be very 
pleased to know that this one could be their 
best yet. What the Henrys do is put across 
the ambience of roots music without actually 
playing trad. Indeed, O’Hara’s singing 
manages to give the impression that she’s 
singing some torchy country blues without, 
quite often, actually uttering a conventional 
word (who needs language to communicate 
anyway, as any fule world music fan kno?).

It’s deep into virtuoso textures on slides, 
acoustic bass (now David Pilch), trumpet, 
pump organ, violin, kalimba, drums, 
mellotron, theremin and all sorts – mostly 
original compositions (apart from Mingus’ 
Goodbye Porkpie Hat and the old standard 
Maria Elena), and all beautifully recorded. If 
you’re looking for musical fellow travellers, 
then probably Bill Frisell or David Lindley 
would be your nearest points of reference, 
but in all honesty, this group’s pretty much in 
a compartment of one. Telling you that it’s 
among the few records that would be 
equally at home in fRoots and The Wire 
might also give you a pointer, but then so’s 
Shirley Collins. hmm.

-Roots U.K., review by Ian Anderson, 
October 2002


Listening to Joyous Porous, the fourth 
release of Canadian group The Henrys, is 
akin to reading one of those books of short 
stories where every tale transports you to 
places you had never imagined, to worlds 
rooted in things you know and have 
experienced, but at the same time are new 
and surprising and just a little weird. On 
Joyous Porous, you recognize the 
instruments, and some tunes sound vaguely 
familiar, but you’ve never heard instruments 
and rhythms and timbres put together in 
quite this way. It’s all a little ramshackle, 
slightly off-kilter, wheezy and rambling. One 
moment the song is going along as you 
expect it and then, quietly it’s gone 
somewhere else, in a way that you never 

The centerpiece on Joyous Porous, for the 
most part, is the playing of The Henrys’ 
leader Don Rooke, mainly on vintage 
acoustic slide guitars like the National Steel, 
the Weissenborn, and the Hawaiian kona. 
Rooke’s playing is pure, inventive, and often 
confounding of expectations. To my mind, 
Rooke is most impressive on The Henrys’ 
cover of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat.” It takes 
awhile to figure out that this dark song, with 
Rooke’s national steel and David Piltch’s 
double bass foregrounded, is the famous 
Mingus tune. With the slide guitar slipping 
and meandering everywhere, it’s jazz from 
some other dimension. 

Although Rooke’s various guitars are the 
instrumental focus, The Henrys on Joyous 
Porous are nine musicians playing twice as 
many different instruments, some of which I 
had never heard of (sonar zombie, modcan). 
On the title cut, John Sheard’s pump organ 
is used brilliantly to creaky effect. Michael 
White provides jazz-inflected trumpet bursts 
to the opening cut “VF61.” Throughout the 
album, White also offers up various 
squeaks, whines and moans from vintage 
electronic instruments like the theremin, arp 
synthesizer, and mellotron. The jacket cover 
states that Joyous Porous was recorded at 
“Cellars and Spare Bedrooms, 
Toronto/Santa Barbara,” but this is no 
amateur sounding release. The careful mix 
of instruments and tonalities rather lends 
Joyous Porous the flavor of some 
avant-garde basement tapes. 

As on The Henrys’ previous releases, Mary 
Margaret O’Hara delivers the vocals on a 
few numbers. “One Body” is a jump-country 
blues penned by Henrys’ bassist David 
Piltch, coming from some alien delta, with 
O’Hara moaning incomprehensible lyrics, 
backed by eerie and subtly distorted slide 
guitars. As if to demonstrate O’Hara’s 
versatility, the very next song, “Strangel,” is, 
by comparison to the rest of the material on 
Joyous Porous, fairly straight-up folk-pop, 
with up-beat and clearly-enunciated vocals. 
Then there’s the aptly-titled “Lipstick, 
Ferrous Scrap,” suggesting a female 
muttering to herself at a junk heap. It’s all 
jerky, clanging percussion and restrained 
feedback, as the woman utters words you 
mostly can’t make out, but the phrase, “I got 
lipstick, I’m a better lookin’ chick,” comes 
through clearly. 

Joyous Porous could be characterized as a 
kind of Flannery O’Conner Middle 
Americana. It’s like watching your first 
spaghetti Western, when the Old West you 
thought you knew all of a sudden looks 
weirdly distorted. It evokes the haunting 
atmospherics of John Fahey or of Tom 
Waits when he uses his invented 
instruments to take us to some other offbeat 
time and place. It’s in the best tradition of 
those brilliant Canadian forerunners of 
what’s now called Americana, The Band 
(okay, 4/5 Canadian) and Neil Young. And, 
when the prevailing sentiment in the US is to 
get government out of everything except 
surveillance and war, you’ve gotta love this: 
the recording of Joyous Porous “was made 
possible through the assistance of the 
Music Section of the Canada Council for the 
Arts and the Toronto Arts Council.” Thank 
you, Canada. 

– Ted Swedenburg, CD Roots