A rare case of the blues

Pat Henry to play first solo performance in three years

Posted: Thursday, April 01, 2004

Juneau fingerpicking Texas blues guitarist Pat Henry doesn't record and rarely plays outside the Alaska Folk Festival and his wife's famous Starr Hill kitchen.

His upcoming show, 8 p.m. Friday, April 2, at McPhetres Hall, is his first solo appearance in town since a performance at Cafe Myriad (now BaCar's) three years ago. For Henry, a Juneau resident since moving from Auburn, Ala., in 1974, its a chance to break out his own acoustic songs and a couple of old blues standards.

"It's been a long time since the last show," Henry said. "Bars demand electricity. I've done that a few times. I'd rather be in a place where people can listen."

Riley Woodford, Buddy Tabor and Tony Tengs will open Friday's show at the hall, near Fourth and Gold streets. Admission is all-ages and $10 at the door. Henry has written a couple of new songs but plans to save those for the 30th Annual Alaska Folk Festival, April 12-18. He and Bob Banghart are the lone musicians to have played at every festival.

"One of the things about the festival is seeing people that you only get to see once a year, and there's a whole slew of them," Henry said. "It's a question of who's going to show up. I don't know anything but to wait and see."

Henry made a rare Yukon appearance in February at Steve's Music in Whitehorse. Henry and shop owner Steve Hare have two close mutual friends, Pete and Mary Beattie of Whitehorse, who helped arrange the show. It sold out approximately 40 seats.

"It was a phenomenon for me," Henry said. "I don't think I ever had a sold-out show before."

"I've known Pat for 12 to 14 years," said Hare, also a finger-style guitarist. "I've been to his house a few times when I've been down in Juneau for the Folk Festival. I know his playing, and I've been to a couple of his workshops. I like his writing, and I like his lyrics. He's got some unique licks and unique approaches in the way he plays. He's always wiping oil on his finger and fingerboard. He's a quirky blues guy."

Local musician Buddy Tabor, a friend of Henry's for 27 years, helped organize the show.

"This show is about him," Tabor said. "He's a great bluesman, and a lot of people don't know about him. I respect him deeply as a writer and a singer, and definitely as a guitar player."

Tabor wrote a song, "Texas Blues Radio," about the stories Henry told him about growing up in San Angelo, Texas.

"He's been a guitar teacher of mine over the years," Tabor said. "He's been a great wealth of inspiration to my musical life. Blues licks. Approaches. Little riffs and runs. He's always inspiring something in me. When he's on, and he's just fingering, he's an awesome player, just incredible. I can see play a zillion times, and all of a sudden he'll do something that'll drop my jaw on the table."

Henry's home on Starr Hill is known for "Jeanie's Kitchen." So named for his wife, Jeanie, it's been a popular musical hangout for Henry and his friends since he moved into the home in 1980.

"During the festival and during the year, I usually have a relatively small group of people to jam with so everybody can have their say, and that's much easier in a small group," Henry said. "My favorite place to do this is around the kitchen table. If it gets to be a larger group, I have to move into the living room and that changes the nature of things."

Woodford has played music with Henry for almost 20 years. He's played in the kitchen many times.

"He plays with his fingernails, and his thumb and all four fingers are flying when he gets going," Woodford said. "He's got bass lines, melody lines and harmony lines layered effortlessly. He'll sing harmony to his guitar lines, or play harmony lines to his singing."

"I study him," he said. "I try to copy what he's doing. When you really examine his playing closely, you come to appreciate it."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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