Back to Red's CD page

Liner Notes:

Red Henry: Helton Creek

Red Henry plays the mandolin, and he takes a direct approach to his music. Inspired early in life by pioneers such as Bill Monroe, Frank Wakefield, and Jethro Burns, Red has found himself continuing their explorations for 40 years. As you listen you'll hear not just technique, but intensity and humor too. He thinks that there's more to music than just the notes.

Red and his banjo-playing wife Murphy led their full-time bluegrass band for eleven years, performing in many parts of the country. Later, they had a family band with their two children, Casey and Christopher. Red and Murphy now concentrate day-to-day on producing their Murphy Method series of bluegrass-instruction DVDs. Murphy's dynamic voice and banjo are heard on several numbers here.

Red's playing style was formed by his two mandolins, the #1 and #3 instruments of luthier Randy Wood. These two superb bluegrass instruments have guided his music through the years. The tone of Randy Wood #1 sometimes bears an uncanny resemblance to Bill Monroe's recorded sound. Randy Wood #3 also has a remarkable story. Monroe himself acquired it when it was new, and owned it for the rest of his life. Murphy bought the mandolin at Bill's estate sale in late 2001, and presented it to Red.

Along with bluegrass, Red is also drawn to traditional fiddle tunes, which he thinks are at the heart of bluegrass music and an essential part of mandolin playing. You'll hear four of his favorites here, recorded with family and friends in a style that crosses over from bluegrass to old-time music.are daughter Casey on bass and banjo, and Sally and Mark Wingate on banjo and fiddle.

For the last several years Red has been performing at folk festivals, often in the company of his son Christopher and his talented, multi-instrumentalist uncle John Hedgecoth. Also joining Red on this recording are daughter Casey on bass and banjo, and friends Sally and Mark Wingate on banjo and fiddle.


Now for the tunes:

1. Red's original Helton Creek has its roots in Bill Monroe tunes such as Bluegrass Breakdown and Kentucky Mandolin, but it takes the sound to a dynamically new level. You'll also hear Red's uncle John Hedgecoth, who played banjo for Monroe in the 1970s, son Christopher, who contributes a hard-to-believe guitar break, and daughter Casey, who provides a solid foundation for us on the bass.

2. Toy Heart is one of four duet numbers which Red and Christopher recorded in 2004 for a never-released CD. The number's sparkling "presence" results from Red and Chris's one-mike, no-fixes approach to recording.

3. The Stanley Brothers' classic Flood of '57 has been one of Red's favorite songs for many years. Once he and Murphy had the honor to sing it with Chubby Anthony, who sang high baritone and played fiddle on the Stanleys' original recording. Here Red and Murphy sing it with John, Casey and Chris backing them up. Red added the twin fiddles for that "high lonesome sound."

4. In a world of great fiddle tunes, Yellow Barber has a spirit of its own. Our friends Mark and Sally Wingate introdroduced the tune to Red several years ago. Here it rocks right along with Mark and Sally on fiddle and banjo.

5. Shawnee Land is an old composition of Red's, although it could be mistaken for a Bill Monroe tune. Bill's tunes The Old Mountaineer and Cheyanne can be found in its family tree.

6. A lightning guitar lead by Christopher kicks off Stay Out of Your Way, an excellent but little-known number by musician and songwriter Chubby Anthony. Chubby died in 1980, but he left great music behind.

7. Chris wrote the lyrical Lucky Charms Waltz on mandolin at the age of 13, and Red has always wanted a chance to record it. The melody and unusual chord progression are haunting, and Red added twin fiddles and viola to explore the tune's possibilities.

8. Red first heard Squirrel Hunters from John Hartford, and was captivated by the tune. Casey (banjo and bass), John (fiddle), and Christopher (guitar) all help to capture the tune's modal atmosphere.

9. Red's Hundred and Six Star Rag was inspired by traditional tunes such as Cattle in the Cane and Crazy Creek, as well as Bobby Osborne's 1960s composition Sure-Fire. This family-band cut, which is previously unreleased on CD, features Murphy's hard-driving banjo along with budding musicians Casey (then 16) on bass and Christopher (13) on guitar.

10. Emmett King, a fiddling tobacco farmer from south Georgia, provided Red's first exposure to Bitter Creek 'way back in 1969. Many years later, it was a pleasure to find that Mark and Sally Wingate knew the tune. Arrangement by Red and Casey.

11. Ola Belle Reed's High on a Mountain has been sung many times, but probably not with a mandocello. Here Red uses the instrument's powerful bass tones to enhance the song's intensity, while John and Christopher provide harmony vocals along with banjo and guitar.

12. Red and Christopher learned Chisholm Canal from a live tape of Bill Monroe, and produced this exceptionally "live" cut around one microphone.

13. Alone and Forgotten is a little-heard number from the brilliant Frank Wakefield. Casey and Chris well remember when Frank visited several years ago. He bestowed nicknames, "talked backwards" incessantly, and generally provided a lot of inspiration. For Alone and Forgotten, Red and Chris collaborate on the vocals, while John and Casey provide their always-excellent backup.

14. Thanks to Linda Williams for reminding us about Remember You Love in My Dreams. Originally a Victorian-era parlor song, this number was recorded in the early 1970s by Ralph Stanley. Red sings this with the mandola for a mellow, bluesy sound.

15. At the same picking session when Mark and Sally brought out Yellow Barber, Red introduced them to Birdie. This tune rocks right along with its own cheerful air.

16. John Hedgecoth, with his experience playing banjo for Bill Monroe, has an intuitive grasp of the banjo's role in Bill's music. Here he provides a kickoff and break for Lockwood, a rarely-played Monroe tune which is one of Red's favorites. Christopher contributes a remarkable guitar break.

17. Red's live performances usually include some stories, and here's Clermont's Visit to Georgia, a tale inspired by Gamble Rogers. The audience really enjoyed this story, but we should mention that not one word of it is true!

18. Christopher kicks off Rawhide in this live family-band performance. Following Murphy's banjo break, Red and Chris trade mandolin solos up to the rousing unison finale.

19. Divers and Lazarus is the oldest song we know, dating back at least to the 1500s. Red's mandocello creates an apocalyptic sound in this ancient, dramatic tale of life and death.

20. Surprise cut: Miss Nora's Blues. This red-hot composition by Murphy showcases her banjo style, along with Red's mandolin and "Tuck" Tucker's Dobro, in this 1981 Red & Murphy band recording. Mike Johnson and Neal Thompson provide outstanding backup on guitar and bass.

Pickers and Credits

On most cuts:

Red Henry: mandolin, mandola, mandocello, and lead vocals.
Christopher Henry: guitar, tenor vocals.
Casey Henry: bass.
John Hedgecoth: banjo, baritone vocals.

More pickers:

#3: Red, fiddles; Murphy, rhythm guitar, tenor vocal.
#4, #10, #15: Mark Wingate, fiddle; Sally Wingate, banjo.
#7: Red, fiddles and viola.
#8: John, fiddle; Casey, banjo.
#9, #18: Murphy, banjo; Christopher, first mandolin on #18.
#19: Murphy, banjo; Tuck Tucker, Dobro; Mike Johnson, guitar; Neal Thompson: bass.

Recorded at Ben Surratt's studio in Nashville in 2005, except:

#2, #6, #12, #14 recorded by Christopher Henry, 2004.
#9 recorded by Red Henry, 1994.
#17 recorded live by Casey Henry, 1999.
#18 recorded live by Harry Grant, 1997.
#20 recorded at the Warehouse Studio, Jacksonville, Florida, 1981.


Produced by Red and Murphy Henry.

Mixed by Red Henry at David McLaughlin's studio in Winchester, Virginia, and mastered by David.

To keep a natural sound, very little computer-assisted music enhancement was used on this project. Red made only a handful of mandolin "fixes" on the entire CD. All the mixing was done manually, to keep a human touch in the recording process.

Back to Red's CD page