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The Henry Girls, a trio of sisters from Donegal, have steadily over the last 10 years built up quite a committed following. Over this time they have sang at the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in front President McAleese and millions of viewers watching worldwide; worked on Mary Black’s album ‘Stories from the Steeples’ and they played a tremendously well received concert alongside the West Cork Ukulele Orchestra in the Mitchelstown Caves, each time building up their fan base more and more, as The Fairground Attraction’s Eddi Reader puts it “O how I love the Henry Girls”.
They have just released their fourth album, ‘Louder Than Words’ and are embarking on a national tour. Ronan Leonard spoke with Lorna McLaughlin, the ‘middle’ sister, ahead of the three concerts they will be doing in Cork, the first thing that came up was the workload the three sisters share, “we had a very busy 2013, we played nearly 100 gigs around Ireland and in Europe. We did our own tour of Germany that was about 15 nights in a row and we are just back from an annual event in Austria called the ‘Guinness Irish Christmas Tour’ where they bring out two Irish bands, so we did it with Dervish we played 23 nights in a row. One highlight was after one of the gigs the three of us and Cathy Jordan (the singer in Dervish) left all the men behind, and we were brought up to some fancy ski resort in the Alps and were drinking glasses of real Champagne! We got back from that Austria on December 22, so we all wanted a complete break over Christmas and into the New Year.”
Lorna describes the The Henry Sisters simply as an ‘acoustic group’, and doesn’t feel the need to get bogged down in genre, “it’s funny we regularly get tagged with an Americana influence, but I think that is because modern Americana is also derived from the old Bluegrass music we listen to, that in turn was influenced by the traditional music that was brought to the Appalachian Mountains by Irish immigrants in the 18th century. Our live set-up for these concerts will be all three of us singing, with the main accompaniment coming from the Harp which Joleen plays, she also plays the mandolin; I sing mostly but I also play the accordion and then Karen plays the fiddle and the ukulele and we all play the piano too! Primarily though it’s vocal led with loads of harmonies.”
As much as they like playing Lorna explained they have a grounded outlook on touring, “we like to do short tours and then come back so we can do other things too, like Karen has three kids so it’s hard for her to be away; some bands are on the road all the time but we like to be busy but not that busy!”
That attitude of not feeling the need to rush things has been there from the very start of them forming the trio, Lorna continued, “Karen and I lived in Australia for a year and a half and when we there we started doing gigs with a guitarist, it went really well and we ended up starting to get some very good, high profile gigs by the end of our time there, we realised it was something we really wanted to do. When we came back in 2001 Joleen was doing her Leaving Cert (Joleen is 7 years younger than Lorna) and we asked her if she’d be interested in joining us in the studio. We made a little demo and it got good feedback, so then we made an album; we kind of did it the other way round than most bands – most go touring first! We only played the random odd gig here and there for the first few years, we did one concert out in the Sahara Desert, the International Nomad Festival heard our record and brought us out there!”
The Henry Girls play De Barras in Clonakilty on Thursday 16 January, tickets are €10; The Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh on Friday 17 January, tickets are €15 and The Half Moon Theatre on Saturday 18 January, tickets are €15. For more details go to http://www.thehenrygirls.com