It's been one great trip! As you may or may not be aware, Free Henry! is taking a nice long vacation. We have been playing out all over Western New York and the surrounding states for 10 years now and have decided to extend our talents into other creative directions. We thank you all for the support and love that you have shared with us and will never forget the era, better known as Free Henry! Until next time....
-Free Henry! Family
Since the release of its debut album, Summers on Neptune (2009), Free Henry! has coursed naturally toward the discovery of its musical identity — a band that traverses powerful song craft and stunning instrumental jamming. Over the last three years the group has honed the latter in the bars, clubs and on the summer stages of its hometown, Buffalo, New York, and the surrounding region. Road-testing the Neptune material — a mix of jazz- and blues- inspired rock that centers on love, lust and loss — allowed for the instrumental motifs of the songs to mature onstage.
As Neptune evolved, so did the band itself. Eclectic new songs started rolling in, eight of which will make up Free Henry!'s second album, Ethereal Gust (due out late 2011). The album is as diverse in sound as it is in songwriters. Lead singer and guitarist Bob Buckley, who penned all but one of the Neptune tracks, delivers three episodic songs: "Introspection," a slow R&B-leaning churn, the reggae-flavored "Wise Up," and "My Mental Theater." Buckely's voice cuts across the spectrum of human emotion, from heartache to triumph. It is a key instrument in the band. He sings with palpable desire and joy, bending and stretching his voice like a guitarist would a string.
Along with "Cash is King" and "Honey Filled Addictions" lead guitarist Alex Foote adds to Gust "Laying It Down," a stop-start funk groove accentuated by drummer Pat Mannella's tittering cowbell fills. Mannella, who is schooled in everything from jazz to musicals, is a visceral force behind the kit — a player who can switch from a laid-back groove to rapid-fire snare rolls at the drop of a hi-hat. Foote is equally versatile. A fine lead and rhythmic player, he can push his band-mates to electrifying tension-and-release peaks. Foote's instrumental, "Laying It Down (Part 2)," starts as brooding prog-rock before reverting back to the funk-themed jam that began in "Part 1." To Gust Presti contributes "Ocean Growth," a melodic pop song that starts and ends with psychedelic ambience. In the years since Neptune, Presti's confidence as a player has bloomed. His bass can become the lead instrument, slapping out funky bass lines as he does on "Laying It Down," or he can drop back and fuel the groove with a steady pulse.
The overall sound of Free Henry!'s diverse canon — warm, funky, joyous, beautiful at times, gritty at others — has come to embody the spirit of Buffalo itself. The band was awarded "Best Original Rock Act" at the Buffalo Music Awards in 2009. In 2010, the group was decorated with this honor once again, was awarded "Best Rock Act" by the Artvoice Best of Buffalo Music Awards, and earned a summer 2011 headlining slot at Artpark's Outdoor Amphitheater, a picturesque venue on the rim of the Niagara River Gorge. Most recently, Free Henry! won the Niagara Falls Hard Rock Cafe's Battle of the Bands. The prize: the band will perform a headlining show at Hard Rock Boston later in 2011.