Jeffrey Halford is an American original.
He plays rock ‘n’ roll, country and soul. Moreover, he’s a songwriter and a poet. Halford constructs stories from his empathetic observations of American life.
Jeffrey Halford and The Healers, a trio, will debut this weekend at the two Alibi Ale Works, Friday at Incline Village and Saturday at Truckee.
The band’s ninth album, “Soul Crusade,” will be released Sept. 23, just before Halford takes off on its sixth European tour.
“Europeans love authentic music,” Halford told Tahoe Onstage. “I am always writing, trying out new songs.”
Halford’s earliest performances were on Bay Area sidewalks. He befriended bluesmen such as Mississippi Johnny Waters, J.J. Malone and Brownie McGhee, and his gigs moved inside.
“I was playing in dirty blues bars and then the alt country things explodes and all of a sudden I’m playing with the Beat Farmers,” Halford said. “I could play good country and I could play good blues. They’re both the same to me. Country’s just a different form. I love both of them quite a bit. I started listening to Elvis and Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry. That’s what launched me out of a cannon, and I broke into deep blues and heavy country. More recently I’ve gotten into the R&B soul thing. I’ll blend it all together.”
Halford totes a National steel guitar tuned in open G, and he can rockabilly, too.
All 11 songs on “Soul Crusade” are originals, typical for Jeffrey Halford and The Healers, which will play an occasional cover at a live show, usually a Bob Dylan tune.
“(Covers are) like clothing,” he said. “There’s a lot of songs I want to try to play and it doesn’t fit. I can’t get the jacket on properly. … (But) learning other people’s songs a great exercise. You learn new chords, you learn different ideas, and I try to take that into my songwriting.”
Halford’s son, Aaron, and daughter, Hannah, contribute on “Soul Crusade.” The album features more R&B and soul than previous releases.
“Instead of writing about hobos and drug addicts and killers I was trying to delve into some love and fun because after those two years (of a pandemic), let’s have some fun, man.”
There are a number of standout songs. “Sinner Man” is a stripped-down acoustic gem. “Pie Eyed Poet’s Plea” is a syncopated story of a drunkard’s sexual experience. “Take It Slow” features Chuck Berry’s character “Carol,” who is much older now but still full of ginger.
The closing track, “Sad Sinking Feeling,” is another stripped-down tune. It sounds like a scratchy vinyl record and was inspired by an emotional event. “It’s a sad little simple song,” Halford said. “I wrote on the spot. Songwriting is an anomaly. You don’t know where and when it’s going happen. So, I just grabbed that thing and finished it quick.”
“Walk to the River” is the highlight of the album: “I’ve got my family close at hand. We’ll march like ants across the sand. We’re not criminals. We’re refugees, and were heading down to the land of the free.”
Halford prefers his political views to be off the record, but on his records he’s apt to be outspoken. He might be compared, lyrically, to James McMurtry, Woodie Guthrie, Steve Earle and Guy Clark.
“That’s a songwriter’s job,” Halford said. “Not only to stir up shit but also to take people on a journey or take them out of their life or take them to a world that they want to go to.”
- Jeffrey Halford and The Healers
- 7 p.m. Friday, July 22 at Alibi Ale Works – Incline Public House
- 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at Alibi Ale Works – Truckee Public House