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Henry Girls bring Irish harmony to Live on the Levee

Courtesy photo
The Henry Girls, with members of Martinsburg's The Fox Hunt, stand along the Derry/Donegal border in Ireland. The Henry Girls, who play Live on the Levee Friday, collaborated with the West Virginia group last year.
WANT TO GO?The Henry SistersWith Holy CowWHERE: Haddad Riverfront ParkWHEN: 6:30 p.m.TICKETS: FreeINFO: 304-348-8014 ext. 105 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Friday's performance at Live on the Levee won't be the Henry Girls first visit to Charleston. The folk trio of Irish sisters played "Mountain Stage" almost exactly a year ago.The return visit to Charleston kicks off a 12-day U.S. tour. Before they return to Inishowen in County Donegal, they will play Black Sheep Burritos and Brews in Huntington, The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and four days at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, among others. For some of those shows (though not Live on the Levee), they'll be joined by The Fox Hunt. They've been collaborating with the Martinsburg-based neo-string band for two years."We were commissioned by the Earagail Arts Festival to collaborate with another band," Joleen McLaughlin explained.Collaborations are part of the event. Sometimes, festival organizers have matched up Irish artists for a special project: for example, Irish actor Stephen Rea with Irish playwright Brian Friel.Occasionally, though, they've stepped off the island. In 2011, they matched up the Irish trio with the West Virginia quartet.
"It really worked out," McLaughlin said, pleased.Before the two bands met, they were sending music and ideas back and forth through email.
"We'd send one thing over and they'd send something back. It was kind of nice like that."The passing of notes and music went on for a few months until finally The Fox Hunt flew to Donegal to rehearse and hash out songs in person."When we got together, everything kind of fell into place," McLaughlin said. "There are big similarities in the music. The instrumentation really worked."The Fox Hunt and The Henry Girls play their own instruments. McLaughlin and her sisters, Karen and Lorna, have all studied music and play multiple instruments including the fiddle, ukulele, banjo, guitar, harp, mandolin, piano and accordion.She said the seven of them recorded about seven songs. Some were straight group numbers. Others were vocal duets. They rehearsed, and then wound up playing a couple sessions together in Ireland and even performed together at the Celtic Connections Festival in Dublin.McLaughlin said she and her sisters were looking forward to returning to play in America. They've been to the United States more than just the one other time, but this is their second official tour, which is exciting.
Still, it's hard to be away from home. Like half the world, McLaughlin and her sisters are keenly watching the Olympics, which is practically next door in London."Everybody is loving the Olympics," she said. "Great Britain is doing very well, and we had an Irish fellow in the triathlon who came in, I think, 23, which was pretty good."But everyone back home right now is paying attention to Katie Taylor, she said. The Irish boxer is set to take on Sofya Ochigava of Russia in the women's boxing finals Thursday.Taylor is Ireland's best hope for a gold medal."We hope to see it on a television somewhere," McLaughlin said.Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.  
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