Sometimes in music, there is a certain fortune in discovering a new artist, but it might just change your life. I recall many years ago booking to see James Morrison play in Brighton and he was supported by an artist that would become one of my favourites, a certain Newton Faulkner. This was cemented when a few weeks later I went to see Keane play the O2 arena to discover the same support artist. At that point I knew the Gods of Music were sending me a message. They were right; I still love the music and artistry of Newton Faulkner and see his amazing live sets whenever he tours.
I booked to visit Omeara last weekend because Marie Naffah was the supporting artist and I firmly believe that she will become a very successful artist having seen her headline in the past and loving her music. I had not discovered Henry Grace at this point but because I love the venue and wanted to see Marie, I booked tickets and hoped to discover a new artist. I duly delved into Spotify to hear as much of Henry’s music as I could and did a bit of research about what he is all about. What I found was an artist who had released his debut album, ‘Alive in America’, last year and who created music which managed to be both stark and cinematic, an artist who wanted to use music to help in the struggles against mental health issues and who made music that reminded me very much of Springsteen’s recent ‘Western Stars’ release. Both records are harboured in a place of honesty and self discovery and therefore are both hugely emotional to listen to.
Born and raised in London, Henry had moved to the States when he was 21 where, over the next five years, he managed to break free of his demons. His music moved from folk to Americana and he started to sell out venues. Now, having returned to London, it is time for Henry to shine. I wasn’t expecting last Saturday to be as inspirational as it turned out to be as I watched an artist rise phoenix-like from a shaky start with some sound issues, to end with the
audience hanging on every word and enthusiastically and loudly greeting every song. It felt like the time Henry spent on stage was almost a live representation of that five year journey and I hope the triumphant climax was as uplifting for him as an artist, and as a human being, as it felt for me. Welcome home, Henry.
Henry’s music certainly brings to mind his American influences but I really felt there was something of David Gray in his tone and delivery and his passion for the fine guitars he used on stage. A particular high in the set was ‘Junkyard Junkie’ which was obviously very personal and delivered with real emotion. He played as part of a four piece and the music was very tight with palpable camaraderie and once the early sound issues, which Henry immediately diagnosed, were rectified, the crowd at this wonderfully intimate venue near London Bridge fell under the spell of an artist who by the time he sang ‘Can’t Be Your Lover’ had them hanging on every word. My personal favourite song ‘Tennessee Dust’ was delivered with such style and panache that I knew those Gods of Music were at play again; I’d discovered an artist who has already
become an integral part of my listening.
The album that Henry has released is available to stream and I would encourage you to give it a listen. Recorded live at Rockfield Studios and mixed by Oliver McKiernan, it really will not disappoint. I can’t wait to see the direction this young artist takes and wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn up at one of the Americana or Country music festivals in the UK where I know he would go down a storm. Irrespective of your music taste, the honesty and emotion of the lyrical journey in the record will resonate far beyond genre.
Particular mention should be given to Izzie Yardley who stepped up to support Henry when Marie Naffah had to pull out with Covid. She sang with eloquence and honesty and proved the perfect introduction to an evening of discovery. I left the venue feeling happy that I’d found two artists I will be following with real excitement for the future. It was great to see Izzie enjoying the occasion despite having to step in at such a late stage. Well done Izzie, well done Henry and get well Marie. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you all live in the near future.