New Album Review, Live at the Spire.

October 28, 2014


By now, I have made it well known that the Jo Henley Band is one of my all-time favorite bands. This past spring,  Jo Henley came to the Spire Center in Plymouth to record their first live album. Several other Rocklandites and I  had the privilege of attending the recording session.  It was an incredible night of music inside an incredible world-class music venue. Mark Bryant of Sea Sound Recording studios made a masterpiece recording of the event that was just recently released on a pre-sale promo. I have had a few days to digest this musical main course,  and I have to say it has become my favorite file.

The album starts out with a Plymouth fan favorite, “Inside Out”,   the  title track of Jo Henley’s award-winning 2011 CD.  It is a rocking compilation of exquisite songwriting and professional performing arts. The mastery of Campolieto’s signature style is in full display right out of the gate. The song explodes out of the tamer studio version, setting the stage for the rest of the high-energy, eleven-song archive.

In the number 2 position is  “The Fire”.   A tear-jerking rock ballad incorporating heart-wrenching lyrics and melancholy  violin that create a tender love song as only Campolieto can.

In the number three spot is “Gonna Make It Right”.   A time-tested fan favorite off the Great Depression album, “Gonna Make It Right” is a classic American rock song with rhythmic hooks, searing leads and genius prose wrapped up in a hard driving, uplifting number. Campolieto’s songwriting skills are on full display on this 8-minute thrill ride that left fans shaking the rafters and pounding the pews in the ancient Spire.

Number four is “Bayley Hazen Road”, the only song on the live album from their yet-to-be-released new album, “Around These Parts”.  Like so many of Campolieto’s works, he takes diverse places and historical accounts and puts them to rock music.  Often, as in this case, the depth of his genius displayed in the songs and throughout his albums is not revealed to the casual fan. However, mature Jo Henley fans listen, google, then listen again before getting the entire picture.  I suggest everyone do the same with this one.

In the number five spot, “Save the Last Dance For Us”, is also from the The Great Depression CD.  Of all the Jo Henley songs, this one should have mass appeal nationwide.  It is a splendid arrangement of love lost with magnetic rhythm guitar hooks, an addictive chorus and cleverly assembled lyrics that never get old.

In the number 6 spot is, “Clinton’s Ditch”,  a historically accurate essay of the plight of Irish immigrants digging the Erie Canal by hand, because as Andy facetiously says, “The story is just so Rock and Roll.”  This song also showcases the endless talent of the Great Ben Lee on guitar.

In the number 7 spot is what I have to admit is my least favorite Jo Henley song,” Holly”.  However, Campolieto does a rare live monologue explaining the origins of the song under the backdrop of tuning instruments and testing drums.  Jo Henley fans, including this one, can’t get enough of Andy’s pre-song descriptions that lend insight into the songs and give the fans a peek into the personality of this larger-than-life wordsmith.

In the number eight spot is a combo of “Mohawk” and “Pine Pine Plains”.  This is a delightful instrumental that has you calmly coasting along the Mohawk river before being blind-sided  by a blazing guitar intro to yet another historically accurate account.  The  Schenectady Massacre in the 1600′s comes to life featuring the settler, Adam Vroom, and his devastating battle.  “Pine Pine Plains” is a hard rocking emotional tidal wave that will have you studying American history about the Pine Plains of upstate New York and the horrors of early American war.

Number nine is “Promised Paradise”,  also from the Great Depression Album… another gem written in loving memory of Campolieto’s grandmother.  Soothing violin, tender imagery and raw talent make this song special for the band and fans alike.

Fittingly, in the number ten spot is “Voyeur Love”, off the band’s first album.  If you never hear another Jo Henley song, download this one!  This is a world-class rock and roll song that features all the qualities of a timeless classic.  Jo Henley breaks into a jam session in the middle of the song that puts their full talent on display in the spot light.  Campolieto and Lee deliver an awe-inspiring jam session that morphs from Phish to the Grateful Dead and then launches into a musical diatribe of  pure Jo Henley gold.  Dinghy on drums, Kyle on bass and the amazing Jordan Santiago on fiddle with Ben and Andy put on a 13-minute rock and roll clinic that rivals any live recording on the market today.  Simply stunning!  I have  decided that this is, in fact, my favorite all-time recording.

After a long session of chanting, stomping and cheering, the band comes back on stage to finish the show with their nationwide hit, “Sad Songs and Alcohol”, off the CD titled the same.  A rip-roaring, country-inspired rock and roll sketch about a guy who just could not resist his sad songs or his alcohol.  Cloaked in humor and upbeat with bass propulsions, a Texas twang,  swift sticks and stellar vocals, “Sad Songs and Alcohol”  is the perfect fit for the end of the album. In this song, Campolieto gets to feature one of  his most influential artists, Merle Haggard.

The CD is riddled with hidden gems that we won’t reveal here.  Rockland Selectman, Larry Ryan, can be heard cheering the band on along with Mark White and the signature screech whistle of yours truly throughout the recording.  Like Bob Seger once said, “If you’ll sing with me just a little, I won’t guarantee it, but you just might end up an album.”


Jo Henley Live At the  A local masterpiece at a peasant’s price.

Get your pre-sale download today so you can be ready for the CD release party at the Spire on November 7th.  Hope to see you there.