FROM BLIND OWL RECORDS: MRS. HENRY PRESENTS THE LAST WALTZ
review by Les
This two-disc release from San Diego band Mrs. Henry and an array of friends, recorded at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, is a tribute to the eponymous 1976 swansong concert by The Band well-documented in the 1978 film by Martin Scorsese. The track listing follows its setlist closely and the care with which Mrs. Henry tends these covers is sincere, if not always sung on key. Their version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, that epic channeling of a poor Southerner at the end of the Civil War bemoaning his lost cause, is well rendered, as is Helpless, Up On Cripple Creek, and the other classic heavy radio airplayer The Weight.
Its attending crowd at The Belly Up this night sounds fairly enthusiastic and didn’t take too much encouragement to cheer the old favorites. But like the original members of The Band who were Canadian (except of course Levon Helm) it’s maybe a bit contrived to hear them identifying with songs about impoverished nineteenth-century post-war life in the Deep South when Rancho Santa Fe is just over the hill. At least in the 1970’s The Band had an audience that was rife with the fresh trauma of the draft and slaughter of the Vietnam War. Mrs. Henry Presents The Last Waltz impresses me as not really a genuine emotional response so much as a casual tour through nostalgia.
With 17 tracks on disc one and 14 tracks in disc two, all the recorded live in the saloon, Mrs. Henry is undertaking a task that would set a high bar for any band and I commend them and their on-stage guests for accepting the challenge. Fans of all here, as well as Robbie Robertson’s original group and Scorsese’s documentary, might enjoy it well.
This CD is set to drop July 12 on Blind Owl Records.