3.8 out of 5
By Jay Freeman
Rob Henriksen is a 44-year-old singer/songwriter from Rockland, Massachusetts, which is just south of Boston. During the day, he works full time for an electric utility but in his spare time he enjoys everything music – concerts, listening to music, open mics, bluegrass jams and playing his own gigs. The multi-instrumentalist singer plays acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica. His latest release Balance was recorded in his bedroom on a Zoom H4N recorder using a couple of mics – a Shure SM57 and an Audio-Technia AT2020. He mixed the EP in GarageBand and mastered it through the online service eMastered. Henriksen states the album’s main theme is about life and “how there is always so much going on – not just with day-to-day things like work and your home life, but with emotions – dealing with them and sometimes not dealing with them.” The six songs showcase the styles and sounds of Americana, bluegrass and folk genres.
“Tuesday Night” is about driving to Henriksen’s friend’s house for a banjo lesson. He took mandolin and banjo lessons from Dave, who is in his 80's, for close to eight years and he became one of Henriksen’s good friends and mentor. Henriksen says that he wouldn’t be where he is today musically had it not been for Dave’s friendship. Henriksen’s guitar is full and rich, and he plays it in true bluegrass-folk fashion. I wonder if he needs an upright bass player. “BNA” is about Henriksen visiting Nashville and thinking about how many musicians had written songs in the airport there, and wondering where everyone is going, everyone has their thing going on, which speaks the album’s “Balance” theme. This song feels like a fresh morning that’s filled with new possibilities and it carries on a traditional singer/songwriter spirit.
Henriksen lost his mom to cancer in 2018 and two of his songs are about losing her. First there is “These Changes.” He starts off asking – “How many people are crying tonight?” “How many swollen hearts are filled with joy?” But further in, his line – “I can’t come over and see you anymore” really cut right at the heart. So much of what he sings strikes a deep, universal chord, as if he wrote this song for every son and daughter who lost a parent to cancer. A powerful number. The next tune lightens the mood for a bit – “Way You're Treating Me” is his try at a straight up bluegrass tune about a fictitious girl who is rambling around. I’d say he pulled it off like a pro. Got to keep your eyes peeled and your heart in the right place when those kinds of girls come to town!
“Me & You” is another take on Henriksen’s experiences of losing his mom. The song’s style is lighter, more open, as Henriksen recollects memories he shared from a photo of him and his mom. Musically, there are lovely textures of the banjo and I think a couple of acoustics, too. A short and sweet tune. The last track is “Grey Skies” and it was written during the Covid lockdown in April. Henriksen was scared about the future – no one knew much at that time. The news was just a non-stop, day-to-day cycle about the virus where after several months, things just started to blur. The weather in Massachusetts was so overcast and cold and he just thought if spring came, everything would be better. He opens with “Birds chirping’ but their confused / someone hasn’t told them the news.” Not getting too close to your best friend, staying inside and hunkering down is something we’ve all experienced. I liked how he ended this one on a soft minor note, which adds to the bitterness and loneliness we have all felt from this virus.
Overall, this is a well-played debut.