Gentle Hen

Gentle Hen

Sun · September 10, 2017

Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

The Parlor Room

$10/Adv, $13/Door

This event is all ages

Gentle Hen
Gentle Hen
The Pioneer Valley. It’s a lush, fertile, creative region in Western Massachusetts but valleys also have things tucked away in their secluded safety. Like Henning Ohlenbusch, who for the past two decades has been a creative centerpiece of the area, quietly writing, producing, and performing thoughtful, earnest, quirky and timeless songs.

His latest project with his band Gentle Hen is the album “Sneaking Up on the Moon,” their strongest, purest collection yet, purposely recorded in a hurry to catch inspiration in a bottle. To keep the band on their toes and teetering on the edge of collapse, the songs were presented quickly and recorded immediately. The result is a dazzling batch of 14 short songs, each one an impressive wave of melodic hooks and memorable riffs that carries you into the next.

While Henning Ohlenbusch is the band’s engine, writing all the songs and recording them in his carpeted basement studio, it’s his longtime collaborators, Brian Marchese (drums), Max Germer (bass) and Ken Maiuri (guitar, keyboards), who bring the songs to life.

Their last record (The Bells on the Boats on the Bay) took five long years to finish, but any hint of hibernating torpor has long been shaken off by exercise and pent-up energy, and the change is palpable. “Sneaking Up On the Moon” is a waste-no-time masterpiece of focus and punch. The album has no fat. Just some newfound muscle and an upbeat nod of the ‘80s heyday of alternative rock, with some jittery XTC guitars here and some R.E.M. richness there, with hints of The Smiths, The Cure, The Connells, Matthew Sweet. Pure pop. A record so sure of itself that it sticks one of its best songs at the end, “The Best News Of Our Lives.” You’re at the finale of the endlessly engaging record but you’ll want to hear the whole thing again.

It wouldn’t be a Henning album without some stylistic variety, so there’s the dusky soul skip of “Willing To Be Forgiven,” the psychedelic swirl of “Misdirection Octopus” and one of the album’s highlights, the twangy and atmospheric “California Brown,” with guest pedal steel from Andrew Goulet.

Even if you know Henning’s work — the albums from his long-running band School for the Dead (the precursor to Gentle Hen), or his solo records, or his family-friendly fun songs released under the name Turkey Andersen — this is a rejuvenating blast of caffeine for the sleepy morning of your life. “Sneaking Up On the Moon” is top pop music ready to pounce.

Henning’s also the lead guitarist in the Fawns and Polaris (yes, the house band of the classic Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete and Pete), and has played bass with Chris Collingwood, Winterpills, The Mark Mulcahy Band and Spouse. He’s a sought after producer (Polaris, Mark Mulcahy, Ray Mason, The Salvation Alley Stringband) and he single-handedly runs a songwriting collective / record label called Rub Wrongways Records.

Gentle Hen is a who’s who of sought-after musical dudes: Brian Marchese on drums (The Figments, Lo Fine, The Aloha Steamtrain, The Claudia Malibu), Max Germer on bass (Winterpills, Spanish for Hitchhiking, The Fawns), and Ken Maiuri on guitar (The B-52’s, The Mammals, Young@Heart Chorus). Longtime lead-guitarist Tony Westcott recently left the ranks with a move to the southern U.S., but his unique DNA is forever a part of the band.

At this special release show “An evening with Gentle Hen”, expect the band to take a journey through it’s back catalog, feature the new record, and present even newer songs. One never knows what else might happen at a Gentle Hen show. In the past they presented custom made crowd-fueled madlibs, acted out scripts from popular 1980’s television sitcoms, gone off on humorously improvised musical and spoken tangents, switched instruments, switched songwriters, switched singers. They’ve passed out individual colored ring lights to the crowd. They’ve attempted impossible covers from Yes to Michael Jackson.
Venue Information:
The Parlor Room
32 Masonic Street
Northampton, MA, 01060