Goldmine Giveaway – Jeffrey Halford and The Healers and Interview
We spoke with Jeffrey Halford about his new Americana concept album West Towards South and musical heroes Augie Meyers, Gregg Allman, Leon Russell and Jesse Ed Davis.
By Warren Kurtz
Win this CD from Miles High Productions – see below for details.
JEFFREY HALFORD AND THE HEALERS are the Americana music trio of Jeffrey Halford on guitar and vocals, Adam Rossi on keyboards, vocals and percussion, Bill MacBeath on bass and arrangements, supplemented by musical guests on this new CD.
GOLDMINE:I am enjoying West Towards South. It reminds me of my days of listening to the western themed concept album Desperado from The Eagles on my 8-track player. It is so enjoyable when the characters can flow from song to song.
JEFFREY HALFORD: I didn’t think I could do it. We started with a plan to do maybe five songs. I got to a certain point and it just kept coming.
GM:“Sea of Cortez” contains some wonderful harmonies. Am I hearing a female voice or is Adam hitting those high notes?
JH: That is Adam. He is really good at that. He had picked up this funky accordion in New Orleans and maybe when the accordion hits his voice, it is creating a female-like sound. Adam shines at our live shows too. He is super talented. What an awesome guy.
GM:Speaking of awesome, Alyssa Joy Claffey joins you on violin for “Geronimo.”
JH: The recording process has so many angles as options. You can do it live. You can piece it together. I had done a vocal, but it needed more. We were working with Don Zimmer at Floating Records and he had Alyssa play along with the vocal. When I heard it, I felt that it fit the storybook nicely. The tone of her violin is so hauntingly dark.
GM:“Deeper than Hell” has a steady tempo and your storytelling reminds me of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
JH: I like the same old blues and folk music that they enjoy, and I try to give it my unique voice to not sound like someone else, but Dylan always comes up. Those are great artists and I thank you for comparing me to artists like that. It is a compliment. I guess one thing I do different is that they are guitarists, but they don’t do their own lead work and I do. I guess Mark Knopfler and J.J. Cale are like that as singer-songwriters and lead guitarists.
GM:“The Ballad of Ambrose and Cyrus” includes piano and steel guitar from Tom Heyman, who has worked with Alejandro Escovedo.
JH: Tom is another beautiful player. He was in my band for quite a few years. I stripped down the band and Tom went off and toured with Alejandro and others. He plays steel guitar in an abstract way. I am always looking for sounds from a different place and Tom does that really well. That song is the story of two brothers and the parting of ways. Ambrose and Cyrus are the two characters that the whole album centers on. They also had a little dog, like my Stella, who is an Australian Shepherd. Stella has made me a much nicer person. I recorded the song on my telephone in my living room. Then I took it to the studio and Adam put a little piano and Tom put a little steel guitar and it was a magical epiphany. I tried to do a couple more songs on the phone after that, but it didn’t sound quite as good. I thought I had an enormous money saver, by recording my vocals on a phone, but with recording you can’t always put your finger on the sound that you are going to get.
GM:Speaking of sound, in “A Town Called Slow,” what instrument is playing the high notes?
JH: That is an accordion. The way the notes drag, I know it is hard to tell the difference between violin and accordion, but on this song, it is accordion. Adam plays piano at the end to achieve a sound of putting you in some barroom, transporting you into that old western world if you turn it up loud.
GM:Please tell us about Bill and what he brings to the group in terms of bass and arrangements?
JH: Bill is like me, a lifer in playing rock and roll. He has an incredible collection of vintage instruments at his house, electric basses and stand up basses and plays through a nice old tube amplifier. Bill has played with some incredible blues people including Bo Diddley. Bill is a groove master. I just had a chance to see a Bill Wyman movie coming out, called The Quiet One, where he says, “If you notice the bass, you are doing something wrong.” With Bill MacBeath, I feel that is what he brings to the performance is that you aren’t noticing the bass but the groove that he brings to the band, which is phenomenal.
GM:You have also played with people outside of your group who I have enjoyed over the years including keyboardist Augie Meyers, whose work I know from The Sir Douglas Quintet and The Texas Tornados.
JH: He is a good friend and has played on a few of my records. I grew up with his music on the radio in Los Angeles and I would see him on television with The Sir Douglas Quintet on those cool shows like “Where the Action Is.” I met him a long time ago when I was opening for an incredible band called Wicked Grin. Augie was back stage and said to me, “Jeffrey, I like your stuff.” The next day I said, “Augie, we’re going into the studio, do you want to come?” and he said, “Alright!” We were recording in San Francisco. We went to the studio and he laid down some tracks. When he walked into the studio, it was like a flashback for him, and he said, “Man, I did a record with Chuck Berry in here,” and then started telling stories from his time with Chuck. Augie and I did a bunch of shows and they were successful, billed as Jeffrey Halford and The Healers featuring Augie Meyers. I am also good friends with Louie Ortega, from The Texas Tornados, who plays with Augie. I like that sound. I learned a lot from Augie.
GM: I think others have certainly been inspired by Augie and that Tex-Mex sound. My wife Donna and I visited San Antonio in the early ‘80s. Walking off our dinner from Mi Tierra Café y Panadería, along the Riverwalk, we could hear different bands play at the clubs and I heard one that certainly had Augie’s “She’s About a Mover” keyboard sound pouring out of the open doors. Also, the Texas band Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns had a regional following and their keyboardist, Kris Cummings, captured that sound.
JH: Augie is certainly a San Antonio hero.
GM:Now Donna and I live in Daytona Beach, Florida where Gregg Allman is considered a local historic hero.
JH: I opened for Gregg about four years ago in Napa, California, doing two shows with him. It was incredible. His audience is my type of crowd and you have to find your audience. People who like Gregg Allman generally like what I do, but of course I don’t want to think that I am anywhere in the league of Gregg Allman, but the audience loved me, fortunately. Generally, when I do a show as an opener, I will stay for a little bit to see the main act, but for these shows I was just pinned to the seat while they did a twenty minute version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” It was incredible. Then Gregg played acoustic guitar on “Midnight Rider.” He was really good. I was knocked out.
GM:Our daughter Brianna and I saw him at Lake Tahoe in June of 2007, just before we moved from that area to Florida, and, yes, the concert was incredible. His high school friend Floyd Miles, from Daytona Beach, was playing with him too, and did his signature song, “Goin’ Back to Daytona.” Also, north of us in Gainesville, Florida, is Tom Petty country.
JH: Yes. Leon Russell’s discovery. Many people don’t know that. He put out Tom’s music on his Shelter label in Tulsa. I am such a fan of Leon Russell.
GM:With Leon, I think one of his best performances is his “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” extended medley on The Concert for Bangla Desh triple album. I remember introducing that medley to Brianna in the car when we were traveling to Macon in 2002 to see The Georgia Music Hall of Fame, filled with The Allman Brothers Band artifacts and related memorabilia.
JH: I grew up with my neighbor Suzanne and we would listen to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood.” I think George Harrison’s The Concert for Bangla Desh is a phenomenal live record and so is Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen and the musical director for both is Leon. Oklahoma produced such great musicians. One that I am obsessed with is Jesse Ed Davis, the guitarist who did the solo on Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes” and played with a ton of people. Leon brought him in for the rehearsals for The Concert for Bangla Desh, playing Beatles songs, filling in while Eric Clapton was ill.
GM:You have a lot of live shows scheduled for this year and this promotion will precede your summer schedule for the California concerts that I saw on your website.
JH: Thank you. I appreciate you putting it out. Goldmine is a great magazine.
To win the West Towards South CD from Miles High Productions, all you have to do is put your email and address in the boxes below by June 12, 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive our informative eNewsletter from Goldmine (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. Miles High Productions has supplied us with two CDs from Jeffrey Halford and The Healers to give away, so your chances are doubled.