A Review: Henhouse Prowlers (Colorad Run Part One)
I have been hearing wonderful things about the Henhouse Prowlers; a traditional bluegrass band from Chicago, for about a year and a half. Having only listened to them on the internet, I was really eager to get a chance to see them live and in person. In the midst of a whirlwind Colorado mini-tour, the band was playing The Bar SS, a small bar in Laporte, CO; nestled right in between Fort Collins and the Mountains.
I had been to the Bar SS once before (also to see some bluegrass) and remembered it being more of a Locals Bar than a bonafide music venue. But, for bluegrass shows; sometimes this can be a good thing. I arrived about 15 minutes before showtime, and the crowd seemed to be pretty much split between locals and those of us who were there to see the music, maybe 60 people total.
Not really seeing any familiar faces in the place, a decided to order a Fat Tire (I don't often drink), and claim a nice space directly in front of the soundboard, where I could get a good audio and visual representation of the band.
When the band came on wearing suits and ties, and I realized they would be playing behind just one mic; I knew I was in for a treat. Theres really something to be said for everything that goes with the more traditional style of bluegrass.
The band opened with a rip roaring bluegrass number that really got us moving. I could tell right away that these guys were seasoned players and that there was no lack of talent. The next song, which I believe was titled Uncle Bubba, showed the bands ability to switch tempos with ease and highlighted their harmonizing vocal abilities, which I was extremely impressed with. Harmonies of this quality seem to be a lost art these days, not just on the bluegrass scene, but in a great deal of current music.
They continued on to play a nice assortment of covers and originals. A few of songs into the set, they played a great version of I'm Walking The Dog, which got the whole place on their feet, including the folks just sitting at the bar just having a drink. Again, I continued to be impressed with the harmonies every bit as much as i was with the band's instrmental prowess.
As I started to focus on each member of the band's playing, I came to realize that although this band doesn't have a mandolin player, I didn't really notice anything missing in the sound, even as they played straight mandolin numbers. I was impressed that a banjo, bass, guitar, and fiddle could produce such a full sound.
As the night went on, the crowd definitely became more involved. At the start of the show, there was nobody on the dancefloor, and I had a clear view of the band. But by the end of the first set, There were a good 15-20 people grooving, and I couldn't see a thing.
I enjoyed hearing them play traditional songs, in a traditional setting,yet still being able to stretch the songs out and improvise. Songs like the haunting Eli Renfro, Bringing in The Georgia Mail, and even Bill Monroe's Blue Moon of Kentucky came off sounding somewhere in between traditional and newgrass.
Ryan Hinshaw seemed to hold the guys together, and struck me as kind of the band leader. He has a great voice and can really play the fiddle. Jon Goldfine was very talented on the stand up bass, and also had the vocal range to sing both leads and harmonies on several songs. Ben Wright was more than solid on the banjo all night long, and you could tell he was having a great time up there. I was most impressed with Eric Lambert, the newly hired guitar player, who had a unique style of mixing it up between rhythm and lead guitar work; often playing both at the same time.
Every member of the band sang lead vocals on at least one song and each of them sounded really good in their own way.
I really recommend seeing these guys if they are in your area. They are the type of band that would satisfy both the greenest Newgrass-Jamband fan, and also the most traditional enthusiast. They are able to mix it up to the point that they could probably play a completely tradional show for say; the IBMA crowd, yet turn around and play a grooving, jamming, high energy show for the festival and jamband crowd. personally, I prefer a little of each during eash show, and it seems the band does as well. Along with Cornmeal, they have proven to me that you don't have to come from the Hills of Kentucky to play great bluegrass music. Chicago will do just fine.