Ramblers and Gamblers Come Alive on Jeffrey Halford’s ‘West Toward South’
California singer/songwriter echoes Dylan and The Grateful Dead in Americana song cycle. BY WILL HERMES
Jeffrey Halford is a rock & roll lifer, a Texas-born, California-bred traditionalist trading in Americana mythologies. His solo album, West Toward South, serves them up not repurposed so much as distilled, harking back to a time when outlaws had more style and panache than today’s suits. “A Town Called Slow” begins things in medias res:
We drank that bottle til the last drip
I reached over to grab the pot
Pulled out a sawed-off with one side cocked
Bad men like that you gotta let ‘em know you’re here
I shot down the chandelier
Ladies screamed when they heard that sound
Pour me another round
It’s a Wild West gambling scenario nodding to the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia songbook (see “Deal,” “Loser,” etc.), with vivid, albeit less metaphysical, imagery. Halford clearly loves the tradition, and he doubles down on it for this 10-track song cycle in which characters reappear as they move across the continent.
Jeffrey Halford & The Healers – Kerosene
The third release by Jeffrey Halford & the Healers is impressive in its musical and lyrical content and utter lack of pretense; simply put, this is great rootsy rock music.
Halford is a transplanted Texan who has called California home since childhood, and the West Coast sometimes serves as a centerpiece for Halford’s musical adventures. Indeed, the opening cut, “California”, is a rocking ode to his adopted home that brings to mind the style of John Mellencamp, a heartland rock sound that reappears throughout Kerosene.
Mix in a little Delta blues, folk, rough ’70s English pop such as Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, plus a touch of Steve Earle, Van Morrison, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and you begin to get the picture. Not a flashy guitarist, Halford prefers short, terse riffs and solos that accentuate song structure. His slide playing is curiously undisciplined and occasionally imprecise, but those inadequacies work to his advantage, resulting in a sound that’s raucous, raw, unsettling and foreboding.
Lyrically, Halford poetically pursues ever-trusty subjects such as love gone wrong, love found, desperation, strange characters (two crazed, vigilante arsonists populate the title track) and hopeless futility. Yet his words manage to transcend run-of-the-mill verbal swill. Vocally, Halford acquits himself with a voice that blends Dylan, Mellencamp and Van Morrison.
Country has a new king in Jeffrey Halford & the Healers
If you can imagine Tom Petty singing vocals for the Eagles while BB King plays dirty blues, then you have a taste of the awesomeness that is Jeffrey Halford. On his eighth CD, Lo-Fi Dreams, he strips down his sound and lets the magic erupt. The first track, “Two Jacksons,” sets the stage, and every song thereafter continues the story with amazing vocals, lyrics and musicality. We simply cannot say enough about this album, which truly shines. Every song is worthy of accolades, but we are especially fond of “Two Jacksons,” “Door #3,” “Bird of Youth,” “Sweet Annette,” and “Great Divide.” The songs will make you get up and dance, while they also stimulate your senses with an overwhelming sense of upbeatedness and drive to get things accomplished.
Jeffrey Halford should definitely be on your list of favorite artists and his latest album deserves a preferred spot on your playlist. We are proud to recommend Lo-Fi Dreams, and strongly encourage you to Get It when it is released.
Jeffrey Halford & the Healers - Rainmaker
Each song plays like a scene from a movie. The tunes are vivid takes on love, relationships and the human condition. Halford is the writer and has a rich, emotive voice that is an uncanny blend of Petty, Dylan, Knopfler, Robertson, Cooder and the like. From the southwestern landscapes depicted in “Rainmaker,” the love rekindled in “Thunderbird Motel,” to the S.F. street scenes of “North Beach,” the poetic guitarist and his crew deliver the goods with a well-crafted fusion of blues, country, folk and rock. A distinctive Americana sound that is equally fresh and familiar. – Eric A. Harabadian
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