The Henhouse Prowlers have spent the last eight of their 17 years together as “cultural ambassadors” for the U.S. State Department. In this capacity, they’ve played everywhere from Siberia and the Middle East to various points in Africa and the Americas (75 countries, all told).
As their new album attests, they are worthy representatives indeed. The Departure, recorded in a picturesque old Bloomington, IN church refit as a recording studio, has all the essential ingredients of virtuosity: intelligent and finely nuanced original songs, exemplary picking and exhilarating vocal arrangements.
Emotionally and thematically, these 13 tracks run the gamut from tongue-in-cheek hilarity to sadness and profundity. “Rich Man’s Dream” is an immensely clever commentary on the romanticized view of life on the road held by those who’ve never actually lived it—a view that leaves out sleep deprivation, stolen equipment, faulty air conditioning and food poisoning.
“(Time With You Is) Time Poorly Spent” is the comic lament of a luckless guy who believes that out of the millions of choices in his home city, he’s somehow ended up with the worst of all possible partners. On the darker side, the title tune is a haunting, lovelorn narrative about a couple torn by indecision as they stand at the crossroads of leaving or staying. “Short Branch Saloon” is a riveting and twisted murder ballad based on actual events. “Jane Adams” celebrates the fascinating and influential life of one our nation’s earliest First Ladies.
I’ve never seen the Prowlers live, but based on the immense appeal of this collection, it’s obvious why they’ve captivated audiences so far and wide.