The John Henrys White Linen

The John Henrys White Linen
Upon first listen, it's almost impossible not to play "spot the influence" with the John Henrys. Comparisons to Tom Petty on songs like "Little One" and "Piece Of Mind" are clearly inevitable, while the title track has a Band feel and "Empty Pockets" is reminiscent of Cracker. Still, these are pretty fine influences to have, and after a few spins the main impression gained is what good songwriters and players these guys are. The melodies are both accessible and strong, as are the vocal harmonies. Singer Rey Sabatin Jr. is the primary songwriter, but band-mates Doug Guthro and Steve Tatone chime in with strong solo contributions. White Linen possesses both more focus and stronger production quality than previous effort Sweet As The Grain. This is an album good enough to justify ranking the John Henrys alongside Blue Rodeo, the Sadies and Cuff The Duke in the elite of Canadian roots rock.

The album is sequenced with A- and B-sides, respectively representing city and rural themes?
Singer/guitarist Rey Sabatin Jr.: It may be a lost art; I think the way we write doesn't happen that much these days. We are kind of old school, so why not do the album like that? It's going to come out on vinyl and that is how I will listen to it. Side A, Side B, 20 minutes apiece. All our favourite albums are that way, so you may as well try to duplicate that.

And you prefer analog recording?
Rey: Yes, this is all recorded to tape and with analog gear. It doesn't mean we'll always do it that way, but our approach is to build on the people that influence us. We see it as music that stays on the in-between. Like a Stones album such as Exile On Main Street, where there is country on it, but it's still classified as rock'n'roll. Or the Eagles or the Band. The Band are way more country than we are, but you don't find them in the country section.

You are all credited as co-producers on the album. Does that mean you take care of your own parts or is it more of a collective?
Bassist Darryl Quinlan: It's both. Everyone comes in with their ideas, everyone is really honest about saying whether they think something works or not.

Drummer Geoff Ward: It could be anyone who added that crucial thing to that one song that made it what it is.

Rey: The beauty of it is that we've never needed a producer; we're all pretty objective. We are always criticizing each other, but in a good way. If someone comes to the table with a song and it's crap, then it's crap. We won't even attempt it. It is a work relationship, partnered with something of a brotherhood. We can say all sorts of things to each other then wake up the next day and give each other a hug. (Linus)