The group will perform an acoustic show at the Bama Theatre on Thursday, July 16, in the intimate setting of the Greensboro Room. Henri’s Notions has been making music for almost 40 years, and has played festivals and gigs across the country and overseas.
The original members of the band met in the late 1970s. They were all UA students active in the local music scene who occasionally worked with each other. Eventually, the performers coalesced into a group and adopted their current moniker.
Founding member Michael Bowman, who plays fiddle and sings, says that the group did not begin concentrating on Celtic music until a few years after their formation. The band originally played a blend of bluegrass and folk, but after performing alongside an Irish group called Touchstone at the Brush Creek Bluegrass Festival, they decided to go in a different direction.
“Since we had already been touching on Irish music, we were really taken by that, and started focusing more on Irish after that experience,” Bowman said.
Current singer and flutist Jil Chambless became a part of Henri’s Notions in the late 1980s when she was attending graduate school at the University. She was asked to join the band and agreed, despite being unfamiliar with Celtic music at that time. She says it’s now her favorite genre.
Henri’s Notions plays a combination of instrumental and lyrical works. Many of the songs in their repertoire are Scottish and Irish reels and jigs without words, though others tell stories – some comic, some tragic. The band plays traditional Celtic ballads and original compositions.
There is a strong narrative element in Celtic music – songs feature characters, plots and vivid descriptions. This is something seen less often in contemporary songwriting, and Chambless believes this is part of why people love traditional music.
“I definitely think the story aspect of all the songs is a huge part of what makes it appealing. It’s not just, ‘oh baby,’ or whatever,” she said.
In addition to Chambless and Bowman, Henri’s Notions features guitarist Scooter Muse, bass player Randy Palmer, percussionist Mark Lanter and mandolinist Jason Bailey. The lineup is something that’s evolved over time to suit the band’s diverse musical influences.
David Allgood is the manager of the Bama Theatre. He coordinated the group’s upcoming performance and has worked with the band in the past.
“They’re at the top of their genre, all of them are really accomplished musicians in the Celtic style,” he said. “They’re respected worldwide for their talents.”
Chambless is looking forward to performing in the Greensboro Room. The artist said the venue is her favorite place in Tuscaloosa to perform and to hear a concert.
“For me, it’s the best way to experience live music, is that small setting like that, where you’re up close and personal and the artist and audience can really have a conversation,” she said.