Empty Nestor
They Hid in the Shallows

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)

Paydirt is the latest Henrys recording, released January 20, 2020.
The record release show was Feb 9, 2020 at the Burdock Music Hall in Toronto.
It was recorded and filmed.
About half the tracks on the new record are acoustic, recorded over a couple of hot June days using dobro (Don Rooke), guitar and mandocello (Joey Wright), and acoustic bass (Joseph Phillips). Later, pump organ and some percussion were added.

The electric songs were recorded in the same space, using, depending on their sonic needs, lap steel and electric guitar (Don), organ (John Sheard), bass (Joe, Paul Pasmore, John Dymond), drums (Davide DiRenzo), and other friends, like Hugh Marsh, who, to our good fortune, has probably been on every Henrys record.

Point of interest: this record was mastered in Berkeley by George Horn, whose credits (and some very cool gear) are vast, and go way back. He works in the same building that housed Fantasy Studios. See below for album details.

Empty Nestor (partial)

REVIEW of Paydirt by Richard Williams

It’s my theory that Meghan and Harry haven’t fled the UK for Canada to get away from the red-tops. I think it’s because they know that the Henrys and the Weather Station have new albums out this year, and they’ll get more chances to see these great Canadian musicians playing gigs in actual Canada.

I don’t know when Tamara Lindeman intends to put out the new Weather Station album, but the Henrys released theirs this week. It’s their sixth, it’s called Paydirt, and it’s another one guaranteed to delight those who’ve acquired a taste for the understated, beautifully shaped music of the band led by the guitarist Don Rooke, who is probably best known outside his homeland as a key contributor to Mary Margaret O’Hara’s small but bejewelled discography.

When Rooke visited the UK before Christmas, we took a train journey to Nottingham together, during which I asked him which, out of all his collection of guitars, was the one he’d be most reluctant to lose. Unsurprisingly he nominated his original Weissenborn, a soft-shouldered Hawaiian lap steel made in Los Angeles before the second world war. Don plays all sorts of guitars, but the mellow, unhurried twang of this one makes it the best-suited to his particular form of self-expression.

Unlike its predecessors, Paydirt is not available on CD. Sixteen tracks can be downloaded, 11 of which are also available on a vinyl disc. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a quietly eventful ramble through a landscape in which folk, country and blues meet and mingle, the conversation varying in stylistic emphasis but held together by a firm sense of collective understanding. To apply familiar terms like “backwoods” or “backporch” would not be entirely inappropriate, although it would probably overemphasise the bucolic nature of music that feels no need to advertise its sophistication.

Alongside Rooke are Davide DiRenzo on drums, Joseph Phillips on acoustic bass, John Dymond and Paul Pasmore on bass guitars, Jonathan Goldsmith on piano and pump organ, Joey Wright on guitar and mandocello, John Sheard on organ and pump organ and Hugh Marsh on violin. That sounds like a lot of musicians, but they share the work around and the sound is always spare and intimate. There are no guest singers this time, but every track sounds like a song.

The tunes are all Rooke’s. You might feel as though you’ve known them your entire life. You haven’t. If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be “Ruby I Realize”, a relaxed shuffle in which the infiltration of Sheard’s light-fingered organ makes them sound like a chilled-out Booker T and the MGs, in the best possible way. Or the hymn-like dignity of “Stolen Border”. Or the blithe, skipping tune of “Bounty Jumpers”. Or the yearning lyricism of “It Was Old But We Knew”. Or the dobro and pump organ of “The Church Picnic”. Or the lightly funky second-line rhythm of “His Weakness Was Slender Arms”. Like just about every note I’ve ever heard from this source, Paydirt is highly recommended.


Dutch journalist and music writer Ton Maas has written about The Henrys in a variety of publications for many, many years. On April 7, 2020 he reviewed Paydirt.

Translated from the Dutch by Google:

Somewhere along a quiet back street in the twilight zone between pop, jazz, Americana and Hawaiian noir, the Canadian Don Rooke has been working on an idiosyncratic body of work that can best be described as a musical private universe. His compositions are delicate gems in which the space between the notes adds extra tension. His own, sparsely dosed slide guitar often plays a casual leading role, but also muted trumpet and harmonium are among the characteristic ingredients of his palette as a composer. On previous albums sometimes fragments of wordless vocals came along. And it wasn’t the least that Rooke managed to get for that guest star, like Mary Margaret O’Hara and Becca Stevens. For Quiet Industry, the penultimate incarnation of the changing musical company that invariably [embodies] the name The Henrys, Don also wrote lyrics to his pieces and then asked singer Gregory Hoskins to perform them.

Paydirt, the sixth album from The Henrys (or the eighth if you include his solo record and the Three Metre Day CD), marks a return to a fully instrumental format. But with The Henrys, everything is just a little bit different. According to Rooke, Paydirt consists of two groups, one of which is “acoustic” and the other “electric”. I use quotes because the differences are quite subtle. The accompanying vinyl album contains a selection from both releases, with the acoustic and electric repertoire each occupying their own record side. (They are just mixed up in the digital download).

If I had to indicate how the new record differs from the previous one, I would say that the pieces might be a bit more accessible because this time Rooke chose pronounced melody lines. But put it on a few more times and you will be amazed at the sophistication and complexity that gradually unfolds. And for those who want to hear even more afterwards, there is Paydirtier (also available via Bandcamp), a virtual EP on which it is easier to hear the improvising. (Ton Maas)

REVIEW from Moors Magazine (translation from Dutch)

The Henrys is the band name behind which Canadian musical genius Don Rooke hides. Every album from The Henrys is an unadulterated masterpiece, and this also applies undiminished and with strength to Paydirt, which is an instrumental album.

Rooke plays the resonator guitar, a guitar with a metal sound box that sounds more or less like a slide guitar, and a whole bunch of other instruments. But he plays them the way you have rarely heard them. Just listen to the light-hearted opener They Hid in the Shallows, then you will understand what I mean.
Relaxed music that is extremely sophisticated and that seems to reveal new secrets with every turn. This is remarkable, because at first glance the music of The Henrys seems accessible and simple, but if you listen longer and better you will notice that every note, every detail, is exactly right and the tension is kept perfectly. Intelligent music, with humor and yet also melancholy.

At this point I must confess I can listen to this music for hours on end in quiet admiration. And even then I don’t get enough. Oh, and by the way – did I tell you it’s incredibly beautiful as well?
We forgive him that Rooke only releases an album once every five or six years, because I play his previous masterpieces, such as Quiet Industry (from 2015) and Is This Tomorrow (from 2009), still very regularly.


Album Details
acoustic players

Joey Wright (ac guitar, mandocello)
Joseph Phillips (ac bass)
John Sheard: pump organ
Davide DiRenzo (drums and perc.)
Jonathan Goldsmith (pump organ)
Don Rooke (Yanuziello dobro, National resonator, Weissenborn, kona

electric players

Don Rooke (Yanuziello lap steel)
John Sheard (organ)
Davide DiRenzo (drums)
Jonathan Goldsmith: (piano, processed pump organ)
John Dymond (bass)
Paul Pasmore (bass)
Hugh Marsh (violin)
Joseph Phillips (acoustic bass)

Composed by Don Rooke
Mixed by Nik Tjelios at The Cottage in Guelph
​Mastered by George Horn in Berkeley
Manufactured (vinyl) by RTI in Camarillo