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Album Review

The second and final record Dorris Henderson did with guitarist John Renbourn sharing billing as accompanist, 1967's Watch the Stars was similar in most respects to the first, 1965's There You Go. Again, it matched the American folksinger's strong, emotive voice to Renbourn's excellent picking, though the guitar work isn't as flashy or striking as what he'd play on subsequent Pentangle and solo releases. A little texture is added via contributions by bassist Danny Thompson (who of course went on to play and record with Renbourn in Pentangle) and guitarist Tim Walker (who also wrote one of the better tracks, "It's Been a Long Time"). The material was a little more adventurous than the largely traditional debut had been; there were a few traditional folk songs here, but also covers of material by Bob Dylan, Hedy West, and British folksinger Anne Briggs, as well as a few originals by Henderson herself. To its credit, it includes some material that is more moodily melodic than much folk of the time. "Mosaic Patterns" (co-written by Henderson and Briggs) and "Gonna Tell My Lord" (written by Henderson alone) are particular standouts in that respect, the latter featuring some of her most stirring, spiritual vocals. The 2005 CD reissue adds, as a bonus track, the non-LP 1967 single "Message to Pretty," a cover of a song from Love's first album. Unlike everything else on the record, it's actual electric folk-rock, though it wasn't as good as the original, with a vocal that was a shade too melodramatic.

Biography

Born: 1933 in Lakeland, FL

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '00s

Dorris Henderson was an anomalous part of the mid-'60s British folk scene: a young black American woman singing traditional songs with accompaniment from one of the best young British folk guitarists, John Renbourn. With Renbourn, Henderson recorded a couple of rare albums, There You Go (1965) and Watch the Stars (1966), and also did a 1965 single of Paul Simon's "Leaves That Are Green." Henderson had a strong, unflappable vocal presence somewhat reminiscent of a more youthful Odetta. Her repertoire...
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Watch the Stars, Dorris Henderson
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