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Sisters In Harmony
From the village of Malin on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal the Henry Girls – aka sisters Karen, Lorna and Joleen – blend traditional Irish folk with bluegrass and classic American songwriting to create a unique sound.
Colm O Hare, 22 Jun 2012
The Henry Girls’ influences range from Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Dixie Chicks and The Be Good Tanyas to Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Tom Waits and a host of other Stateside songsmiths. But, as Joleen Henry explains, that’s only a part of the story.
“We always struggle when trying to describe what kind of music we play, especially in America,” she says. “Some people think we sound more American while others think we’re more Irish. Nothing we do is a conscious effort to be one way or another. It seems to happen naturally. We’re all into different types of music. We all love American singer-songwriters, which is our main influence. I suppose it’s the instrumentation that makes us sound Irish. The songs are definitely more American.”
Given their use of close harmonies, it’s not surprising they’ve been likened to The McGarrigle Sisters, The Andrews Sisters and The Everly Brothers. “We were always surrounded by harmonies,” Joleen enthuses. “Our mum led the church choir and we played and sang at the chapel on Sundays. There was always plenty of music about the house and we had three other sisters who also played. We got music lessons in school, mainly traditional. I think it was Lorna who picked up the accordion first. But everyone played an instrument.”
The three decided to gig together professionally over a decade ago. “Karen and Lorna went to live in Australia for a year-and-a-half and they started playing around the pubs over there, receiving a good reaction. When they came back around 2001 we got it together formally. It took about a year and then we made our first album, Between Us.”
Their recorded repertoire includes originals and covers, encompassing standards such as ‘Tennesse Waltz’ and ‘Dimming of The Day’. In a slight change of direction, December Moon includes a fabulous version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Watching The Detectives’, which re-invents the song as a rootsy Americana tune. “We loved the original and decided to cover it,” Joleen explains. “We haven’t heard yet what Elvis Costello himself thinks. We know he has a copy because we sent him one.”