Henhouse Prowlers 'Breaking Ground'
Words By J-man
For years the Henhouse Prowlers have been touring the country relentlessly picking their way through bars, barns and increasingly larger spaces. On the eve of the release of their third album, Breaking Ground, I reflect on a band who's growth I have watched closely, both musically and personally, over the better part of a decade. As of late The Prowlers have earned opportunities aboard The Mountain Songs at Sea Cruise, with some of the biggest names in the industry. As well, they have earned the position of providing direct support for The Del McCoury Band at Del Yeah, among many other incredible honors. Through all of their accomplishments comes a band driven by their love of a music that reflects the past, present and future and is one of the most respected and cherished genres in this country, bluegrass. As I hit play, I closed my eyes and I was taken back to another time.
Soaring instrumentation collides with fascinating storytelling and the relatable emotion of love, loss and the trials and tribulations of being human. Songs like "Why Is The Night So Long," "Lonesome Road" and "Drunk Again" kick off Breaking Ground putting the "blue" in "bluegrass" with beautiful fills and harmonies. Traditional murder ballad, "Pretty Polly," and the original "The Track," reinforce a story-telling style that has all but died in the industry. Dan Andree's vocals are raw and full of depth offering a fantastic flavor on his first album with the band. Another much needed component of a bluegrass album is the train song, which comes in the form of "Another Train," packed with metaphors and old time imagery. "Ravenswood Getaway" features special guests Greg Cahill on banjo and Josh Williams on guitar for the album's most impressive picking.
Original band members Ben Wright and Jon Goldfine shine vocally and Ben's prominent banjo work leads the charge with perfect timing and impressive skill. Songs like "Scratching Post" and the title track "Breaking Ground" seem obvious choices for potential singles, while songs like "Soul Saver" also feature catchy licks and bright melodies. Starr Moss, who is also appearing on his first Henhouse Prowlers album, brings guitar-slinging quickness and a youthful edge to the sometimes traditional sound. One of the albums most unique tracks, a cover of The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," features Dan's screaming vocals and Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass on the dobro. The track offers yet another element of variety to an already incredible display of range.
Upon the albums conclusion, I was given no choice but to start again from the top. Every once in a while an album comes along that you can listen to all of the way through, with one great track after another, keeping your fingers from skipping ahead. Breaking Ground is one of those albums. I am filled with pride for a band who has put in its time and has worked so hard to get where they are today in an industry where sustainability is the first of many challenges. Breaking Ground is the result of all of those years of living gig to gig out of a small van, and never looking back. Congratulations to The Henhouse Prowlers!