The Henhouse Prowlers
Chicago. A city known for its blues…and its bluegrass. In the bluegrass history books, a pivotal stop, among others, along the road to success for the Monroe Brothers and, in more current times, noteworthy as home base for the long popular Special Consensus. And now, the Windy City serves as a critical intersection in the lives of five musicians, two who hail from Illinois and the others from as far and near as North Carolina, upstate New York and Missouri.
With a PBS series soundtrack already to its credit and a sophomore recording in the works, The Henhouse Prowlers have been barnstorming on to the red hot bluegrass scene since 2004. A couple of personnel shifts later, in 2007 the roughly thirty-something quintet made the commitment to go the distance, to be a full-time touring bluegrass band. But not just another bluegrass band. The Henhouse Prowlers are adeptly positioning themselves for nothing less than success. Each member does double duty within the group, holding a business as well as musical post, making it a total collaborative effort.
Dedicated equally to tradition and innovation, The Henhouse Prowlers center their sound on that of the early, formative years of bluegrass, while they keep their pulse on today by covering contemporary topics in a largely original repertoire.
The Henhouse Prowlers wear the Bill Monroe mantle with spit and polish. They perform -- and conduct media interviews -- in suit-and-tie and work in a tightly choreographed, one-mic stage setting, which adds a dynamic dimension to their shows. Combining passion, confidence and flair with instrumental and vocal prowess, The Prowlers deliver bluegrass with an edge.
The group’s prolific songwriting provides entrée to twenty-first century topics not typically tackled by traditional bluegrass groups. Guitarist Ben Benedict describes what they are trying to achieve. “None of us in this band lives in a ‘Little Cabin Home on the Hill.’ Most of our audience doesn't either. But there is a broad spectrum of life that we can all relate to, so those are the themes we try to hit on and tell stories about in our original material.”
Along with Benedict, fiddler Ryan Hinshaw, dobro player James Weigel, five-string banjo picker Ben Wright, and upright bassist Jon Goldfine bring to the table diverse musical backgrounds, drawn from their respective families and homeplace communities. Each pursued music in a variety of settings, ensembles, and genres prior to jelling as The Henhouse Prowlers. Interestingly, at varying times, each did a stint in Chicago’s Back Porch Ramblers.
Along the collective road they have traveled, The Henhouse Prowlers have absorbed such diverse influences as Broadway, blues and barbershop, church music and shape note singing, opera and oldtime, classical and country, folk and funk. James Weigel explains what drew him ultimately to focus on bluegrass. “Bluegrass seemed to be an amalgamation of all the things I’d ever listened to: blues, country, folk, harmony, great songwriting, and the energy and drive of rock and roll.”
Their eclectic musical backgrounds were the perfect fit when called upon by NBC Today Show features correspondent Mike Leonard to compose the soundtrack for his PBS documentary series. Based on the best-selling book, “The Ride Of Our Lives” follows Leonard’s family on a cross-country motor home trip with the backdrop of tradition-inspired music composed and performed (off-camera) by The Henhouse Prowlers.
Before the year is out, The Henhouse Prowlers will be introducing a new CD, which will be ninety percent original material. At the production helm are banjo great Greg Cahill of Special Consensus and mandolin legend Don Stiernberg.
Currently on the road at least two-thirds of the year, The Henhouse Prowlers like to stress that they make fun a top priority. As Ryan points out, “We have a great time, and we feel this directly translates into our audiences’ having a great time, too.”