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Album Review

Although San Francisco-based, Jeffrey Halford makes music that is seeped in the South. It's a sound forged from roots rock and country blues, with a hint of gospel and folk. The easy-flowing "Oh, Susanna" begins with a brief guitar nod to the same-named traditional tune and then proceeds to tell a Civil War-set narrative from a Confederate soldier's perspective, which refers to Ambrose Bierce's short story Incident at Owl Creek Bridge. "Memphis," meanwhile, is a rousing tribute to that Tennessee town complete with shout-outs to Al Green, B.B. King, and the King, Elvis. Throughout the record, Halford displays a sharp storytelling eye. The hobo ode "Straight Razor" and the panoramic tale of Central California, "Black Gold," stand out as particularly evocative, moving songs. Sometimes his societal critiques verge on becoming heavy-handed; both the anti-gun "."44" and the Native American history lesson "Crazy Horse" drive home their points a bit too hard. "Satchel's Fastball," however, nicely injects an undercurrent of '50s racial politics into this Satchel Paige-centered baseball story. But for all of his gritty tales, Halford also adeptly displays a softer side. "Radio Flyer," for example, beautifully tells its story of a parent talking lovingly about his young child. This poignant tune recalls Bring the Family-era John Hiatt and the similarities continue in Halford's Southern soulful vocals and his rootsy rock sound. While he might not have reached Hiatt's songwriting peaks, "Halford" does demonstrate a real ability to pen vivid stories, and aided by his loose band of compatriots, the Healers, he puts them across with just enough muscle to make an impact without being overly melodramatic.

Hunkpapa, Jeffrey Halford and The Healers
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