The songwriting duo of Andy Campolieto and Ben Lee have been collaborating about the existential meaning of life for the better part of two decades. During that time they've managed to grow as musicians, songwriters and family men and there's a brotherly bond between these two friends that is palpable both on stage and off.
As a band Jo Henley is greater than the sum of the parts even though all are accomplished players. Mike Migliozzi is a beast of a drummer and along with bassist Kent Stephens forms a juggernaut rhythm section that powers the Jo Henley engine. It's clearly Campolieto's vocals and Ben Lee's explosive guitar work that front Jo Henley but as a foursome they are a formidable side. We should note that long-time organ and keyboard ace Amer Saab was not along for this evening but he's an integral part of the full Jo Henley experience. It's a crunching classic rock base with heavy influences of folk-rock, jam band and alt-country that create the Jo Henley sound. Having a band with a variety of backgrounds means Jo Henley has the option to shift into multiple gears when the songs call for it. Campolieto has a booming stage presence that compliments Ben Lee's understated brilliance hidden under the 'man in black' fedora. Lee can shred with anyone we've seen but he's far more to the Dire Straits - Mark Knopfler side of the flash meter than he is the "Guitar God" side. He's a quiet assassin that demands concerted attention.
The band, and all of it's great positives aside, relies on great songwriting from the onset and that's what separates Jo Henley apart from many of their contemporaries on the jam band, roots circuit. Campolieto writes songs that are best served with a churning groove that builds , peaks and builds again around catchy hooks and compelling lyrics. Whether the song is a historic reading like "Over the Pine Plains" or lamenting a relationship too far gone like the anthemic "Inside Out" the hooks can be found in the groove or in the lyrics and that makes for ear candy that enters the head and plans to stick around. At times you can zone in on the lyrics and miss how great the music is and vice versa which almost always assures that you'll go back to these songs over and over.
There's a lot to like about Jo Henley. A genuinely great bunch of people that get together to celebrate music and friendship, lament the shape of the world and to think about things that matter...friends, family and community. They're not a band that slogs through 220 dates a year and, at this point, they don't need to be. So long as they remain a band that demands the best from each other and from themselves and consistently re-new their commitment to the quality of their music we'll have to settle on seeing them when we can. If you haven't, you should.
Andy Campolieto - vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar
Ben Lee - guitar
Kent Stephens - bass, vocals
Mike Migliozzi - drums, vocals
The Session Crew
Produced and edited by:
H. Nat Stevens
Dan Busler Photography