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Album Review

Jeffrey Halford's literate heartland rock gets a dose of political heat courtesy of Hurricane Katrina and the government's response to it. His sixth release is another crackling roots rock/Americana collection that often asks more questions than it answers, all to the beat of a swampy, rockabilly, folk-rock beat. "Ninth Ward" and "Louisiana Man" explicitly hold the Bush administration accountable for the New Orleans debacle and his anger not surprisingly bleeds into the music, which exudes an edgy texture. Some tunes are propelled by guest Augie Meyers' (who also appeared on Halford's previous release) always distinctive Tex-Mex keyboards. "Rock 'n' Fire" perhaps references Mellencamp's similarly titled "Paper in Fire" too closely but Meyers kicks it into grungy garage territory with the unique simplicity of his '60s-styled organ work. The sultry story-song "Chicken Bones Jones" takes you down to the bayou, both musically and lyrically, as Halford recounts the tale of the down and out yet colorful title character. There's a strong John Hiatt influence here, both in the rugged guitar rockers and in Halford's descriptive lyrics. It's especially obvious on "Running Crazy" as he describes a particularly dysfunctional family. "In a Dream" and the closing "Two Kings" are touching ballads that balance the rest of the upbeat material. Halford's three-piece backing band, the Healers, receive co-billing for good reason; they bring taut, tight reinforcement to his songs and have a natural affinity for his material. Halford's voice, somewhere between Tom Petty's drawl and Alejandro Escovedo's intimate phrasing, also pushes these songs with a tough yet tender approach. At only ten cuts that clock in at under 40 minutes, the set is on the short side, but there's no excess fat either. It's a lean, tight disc that shows Halford and his band to be ripe for discovery, especially by the No Depression crowd who is likely to be his target audience.

Broken Chord, Jeffrey Halford & The Healers
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