If you were to pass Jeff Chaz on the street somewhere, you might not even give him a second glance. Too bad, because if you look closely at his weather worn face, you would realize that every one of those lines tells a story.
And as a great bluesman, Chaz turns every one of those stories into a song that rings true. Songs of triumph, songs of loss – Chaz has got a million of ‘em and you want to listen carefully to each and every one.
In 2016, Chaz pulled off a difficult feat, he released two albums in the same calendar year. The first was Sounds Like The Blues To Me which was featured a couple of times on Time For The Blues. The second is This Silence Is Killing Me, and while we got a couple of tunes on the show, it really deserves a more thorough examination.
I really enjoyed both albums, but at the time I received this second one it was difficult for me to get a review posted. As I am currently embarking on a campaign to correct that, please indulge me as I introduce you to a great album by a terrific player and singer.
The album starts off with a very lively Savin’ Everything For You. It’s the story of a man who doesn’t even have time to spend the money he makes, so he’s giving it all to that special person. It’s a good opening and very upbeat.
Next up is the title track, This Silence Is Killing Me. It’s a slower, more deliberate number, very personal. Chaz’ voice is very expressive and his guitar work is impressive. This is one of those songs that really gets to you. Even though the story is painful, it’s the essence of the blues. Love it.
He picks up the tempo on I Ain’t Nothin’ Nice, and the result is a nice fat sound with a tight horn section. The song jumps and swings and the lyrics are darker. Chaz’ vocals growl with menace, and even the guitar break takes on a darker side. It’s a solid number.
Chaz is back to a little swinging on I’m Not All There. The lyrics are clever and the percussion is tight and a little different giving the song an unusual feel. The Blues Is My Drug follows up with a tortured number and the title pretty much sums up his approach. We all have our addictions, some are more life changing than others, but they all change us somehow.
The next song, Merry Christmas To You, seems a little out of place in the middle of the album, especially as a follow up to the previous song. Having said that, it’s a sweet, infectious number that should receive a lot of airplay every year around Christmas time. It’s got plenty of optimism and is full of the spirit of the season.
Love the opening of Oncoming Train, and there’s the feeling of optimism for maybe 10 seconds. After all, this is a blues song, so you might not want to get too comfortable. Seems like no matter what you do, there’s always something that messes up your life. Watch out for that light at the end of the tunnel…
Next up is the longest cut on the album at 7:19. Fried Chicken Store starts off slow and deliberate and delves deep into the blues to create the world of the song. The story of the song is very creative and the music is a great jam. Somehow, I think when this one is performed live, there’s even more to it than what’s on the album.
There’s some funk happening on Self Inflicted Wound. The horns drive the song and Chaz’ vocals are a throaty growl that play wonderfully against the music. Listen for the killer guitar break as Chaz is on fire.
We’re back in solid blues territory with The Backwash Blues. The guitar work is swampy and that blends wonderfully with the strained vocals. It’s down and gritty and the kind of song that just about every blues lover craves. Oh yeah, this is a great song.
The album ends as it began, with a little bit of swing. Creole Mustard Swing is a rocking little number that picks you up after the dark world of the album, dusts you off, and sends you on your way. It’s a cool little instrumental that gives Chaz and his band a chance to showcase just how good they really are. And they are just that, real good.
There’s so much to the Jeff Chaz story, from crisscrossing the country learning the music and finally settling down in New Orleans only to be wiped out by Katrina. There’s a long tradition of blues artists losing everything and starting over. Says something about their resilience, or at least their inability to go after anything else.
I have a great deal of respect for Chaz. I’ve enjoyed his music very much and would love to catch him live sometime to see just how great of a performer he really is. He’s got a few albums that you might want to consider for your collection and you can find them at http://www.jeffchazblues.com/. While you’re there, be sure to check out his tour schedule and if you find an appearance near you, be sure to check him out.