Legacy is a recurring theme throughout my conversation with Outlaws front man, Henry Paul. For someone who has achieved so much in his professional career, there remains, what he terms, “unfinished work”. He is not letting the grass, green or otherwise, grow under his feet. Here, Henry discusses the past (the good times and the bad) and the Outlaw’s new live album, ‘Legacy Live’.
Formed in Tampa, Florida in 1972, The Outlaws first three albums – The Outlaws, Lady In Waiting and Hurry Sundown – featured such rock radio favourites as ‘There Goes Another Love Song’‘ and ‘Green Grass & High Tides.’. Henry left after the group’s third album to form the Henry Paul Band, and later, Blackhawk.
As he reveals, his departure was messy and acrimonious:
“I was forced from the group in 1977 and it was a very painful sort of experience for me because I was the front man of the group, and I had invested quite a bit of myself in helping get the band to where it got.
“I never really felt I had a chance to finish with the people I started out. However, that being said, starting the Henry Paul Band and later Blackhawk, both were very rewarding. Looking back on it, me leaving the Outlaws when I did was probably the best thing for me.”
In the intervening years, the Outlaws would experience numerous personnel changes and the tragic deaths of co-founding members Frank O’Keefe, Billy Jones and Hughie Thomasson.
Now back at the helm for this latest incarnation of the Outlaws, Henry is joined by founding member Monte Yoho on drums, lead guitarist Chris Anderson, co-lead guitarist Steve Grisham, keyboardist/vocalist Dave Robbins and bassist/vocalist Randy Threet.
Following the turmoil he experienced in the 70s, I ask Henry if he has now achieved closure on that tumultuous period of his life:
“I think I am in the middle of getting it done. The last studio record that we made was a very, very, significant step in the right direction just from the stand point of the character of the record and the acceptance from the fans.
“But I still felt I had unfinished work. The fact that Monte and I are the only surviving members meant that the burden of responsibility fell on me to try to put some closure on the band’s musical journey.
“The live record gives me another opportunity to take another step down the road of putting a punctuation at the end of the band’s musical career. I am very satisfied with the way the record turned out and the songs that we chose and the performances.”
Has the new live album met Henry’s high expectations, I ask?
“Yes, it has. I work really hard on the musical issues: sequencing it, mixing it, making selections of which versions of the songs we would use and from which shows.
“I wanted to try showcase everyone in the band that I started out with, I wanted to try to put their music in a very respectful perspective. From Hughie Thomasson’s ‘Green Grass and High Tides’ to Billy Jones’s ‘Prisoner’ to ‘Cold Harbor’ of the 1986 Soldiers of Fortune album, to ‘Girl from Ohio’ of Lady in Waiting.
“I guess I wanted to put some music out there, the songs that I knew the fans loved and that had never really gotten the opportunity to be put together in a live setting.
“I had about twenty to twenty-five shows recorded. When I started to review all the different versions of these songs it became apparent to me, my co-producer and engineer that there were two or three shows that were clearly better from a sound and performance standpoint.
“The majority of the album came from two shows and then there are bits and pieces of songs that came from a different evening of music. When I finally did get to the point where I did narrow it down to two evenings, it really became easy because they both had a very similar sonic quality and character.”
Having listened to an advance copy of this live album, I can report that it is an absolute gem. As a unit, the band gel magnificently. Like angels, the harmonies soar. Exploding from the amps like Exocet missiles, the guitar solos propel crystal clear, crisp notes. Drums, bass and keyboards are all given their day in the sun, their moment to dazzle.
According to Henry, new Outlaws material is in the works:
“I have another studio record that I am in the middle of writing for a release next year. I see that as an opportunity for me to really tell the story and in the process be respectful to my former band mates and current ones. It is an excellent opportunity to put a wonderful studio record out there for the fans and put another block in the wall of the band’s history.”
I ask Henry if he is still enthused and excited by the creative process of writing new material:
“Yes. The reason is I still have the creative character to create new music and the ambition and the energy to do it. I can see why people eventually get to the end of their career and stop doing what they have done.”
These are momentous times for the Outlaws. They have reconnected with their loyal fan-base, and also worked hard to attract new listeners. Guided by the wise counsel of long-time band manager, Charlie Brusco, Henry’s hand is firmly on the tiller, his direction of travel is clearly charted.
2. There Goes Another Love Song
3. Hurry Sundown
4. Hidin’ Out In Tennessee
5. Freeborn Man
6. Born To Be Bad
7. Song In The Breeze
8. Girl From Ohio
11. Grey Ghost
1. South Carolina
2. So Long
4. Cold Harbor
5. Trail Of Tears
6. It’s About Pride
8. Knoxville Girl
9. Green Grass & High Tides Forever
10. (Ghost) Riders In The Sky