Music reviews and other tales from a fun lovin', hard working, free lance journalist/insurance expert, Fred Adams
Sunday, June 26, 2011
A Reintroduction to Henry McCullough
Henry McCullough is releasing a new album, UNFINISHED BUSINESS, featuring his roots-inspired genre that combines folk, British blues rock, and party sounds, just as Henry prepares for his guest appearance at the Fest For Beatles Fans, August 5-7, 2011, in Chicago, IL.
Growing up in the seaside resort of Portstewart, in Northern Ireland, Henry's first musical venture was as guitarist with Irish show band The Skyrockets and the years to follow found him playing the dance hall circuit with similar outfits, including the popular Gene and the Gents. "I don't strictly play in one area of music; I grew up, playing Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley--whatever was in the top charts then, and I was playing with people who were a generation older than me. The apprenticeship I had with music with show bands with people who were a generation older than me."
When the blues boom hit Ireland, Henry became involved with the rougher side of music through the outfit that became Eire Apparent. Managed for a time by Chas Chandler, Eire Apparent were one of the many bands to take part in package tours of Britain, alongside of The Move, Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Amen Corner... After an untimely exit from the band, Henry nailed down some of the finest mix of traditional and rock with his work as part of the legendary Sweeney's Men in 1968; It is said that this line-up more or less invented the concept of Folk-Rock.
Within a year, he drifted to London where he became steeped in the blues scene, rubbing shoulders with some of the greats of the genre who were just coming to the attention of the British revivalists. An encounter with a young Sheffield singer led to a job and Henry's first brush with the realIy big time - as part of Joe Cocker's Grease Band. Tours and albums followed quickly, including an appearance at Woodstock and a lengthy period of work in the States.
Breaking with Cocker, Henry and The Grease Band grooved in its gritty blues music that made them a live favorite that has rarely been equaled. He auditioned for a gig with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. Henry, along with Denny Seiwell, Denny Laine and Linda McCartney were the first - and many say best incarnation of Wings. He embellished the single 'My Love' with a graceful solo that is one of the all-time guitar gems and shows once and for all the expressive power of the instrument. At one Wings session at Abbey Road, when Pink Floyd were in the studio next door, Henry made a spoken contribution to the end of the classic song "Money" on DARK SIDE OF THE MOON.
But musical differences with the headstrong Macca followed, and Henry ended up in some very good company, playing guitar and gigging with the Roy Harper, Marianne Faithfull, Ronnie Lane, Donovan, Frankie Miller, Eric Burdon, Viola Wills, Spooky Tooth...
During a visit back home to see his family in the early '80s, an accident with a knife almost cost Henry his livelihood, severing tendons in his playing hand. The enforced lay-off allowed Henry to re-evaluate his life and his career, and he took the decision to stay home in Ireland. The road to recovery was almost complete when Henry started sitting in with the Fleadh Cowboys for their now legendary Sunday afternoon residency in The Lower Deck in Dublin. It soon became apparent that Henry's contribution was an attraction in itself, so he formed his own band and toured Ireland in 1988.
In the '90s Henry moved back to Portstewart and formed a new band.
In 1998 he went to Poland, where he rehearsed a band of Polish session musicians for a tour. At the end of the tour, they went into a studio and played 'live' for an afternoon. A resulting CD, BLUE SUNSET was released in Poland, and was followed up by a further successful Polish tour.
On returning home, Henry decided that it was time to do record a few studio tracks. With help and encouragement from his many friends, he released "Failed Christian," a harrowing self-penned song that has since been covered by Nick Lowe on his latest Demon album, DIG MY MOOD.
In addition to "Failed Christian," Henry's album, UNFINISHED BUSINESS includes some originals and choice songs from other artists he's worked with through the years--Paul McCartney and Frankie Miller. The Ronnie Lane song, "'Kuschty Rye' is something I played mandolin on the original version; I always liked the lyrics. The Grease Band supported the Faces in America." "I'd Rather Die Young" is a song from the '50s (Johnny Cash, Jean Shepard, George Jones), and I thought it was beautiful as a country song. This album is a tribute to the people I've worked with."
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