If you are of certain age, you may have sweet memories of listening to a tinny transistor radio late at night, turning the little wheel on one side of the case and trying to pull in the magical music from a distant station. When you found that wonderful oasis somewhere on the dial and got a blast of different music, it made all the wrestling with static worthwhile.
I’ve probably lost some of my readers, but if you know of what I speak, I would be willing to bet there’s a faraway smile on your face right now. AM radio was as much a part of my cultural education as anything I learned in school. When a teacher droned on about the square root of the hypotenuse, I was able to look interested and play back and entire set from the previous night in my mind.
Sure, there were trade offs. Sometimes a song would just fade to nothing, and there were nights when all I could get was static, or a far flung preacher who was spreading his own form of gospel complete with frequent requests for me to fund his mission.
It was all worth it when you could pick up that musical crossroads that was America. When stations were locally owned and operated and you just might hear the likes of Ray Charles up against Johnny Cash because music was music and labels were for the inside of your shirt.
Jeffrey Halford felt the same way. He grew up moving from one place to the next, absorbing that America and carrying it with him. Sometimes it was only a small radio late at night that gave him the strength of purpose to get through to the next day. I kind of get the feeling that Halford and I just may be kindred spirits.
I’ve been listening to a lot of blues lately, of course, looking for material for the next several shows. Every so often, even when you’re listening to some of the best artists on the planet, you just need a moment of respite. When those days come, I am fortunate that I have a few publicists who send me great country, bluegrass, and roots music to sample and share. One of them sent Halford my way with his latest album Lo-Fi Dreams, and for the next hour or so, I was back in that musical oasis listening to some eclectic and well-written songs.
The album starts out with the sweet sounds of Two Jacksons, his country approach is country in the way that some of the best storytellers are. I would stack him up against the likes of John Prine and Steve Goodman right away. He paints pictures with his words and adds color with his guitar. This one just might hit the spot.
He follows up with the deliciously unusual song, Elvis Shot The Television. Halford uses a wild set of drums while telling the story of the King of Rock And Roll pumping several rounds into his television set. It’s one of the great rock stories and Halford captures the weirdness that Elvis had become at that point. Cool song…
Next up is a quick number, Door #3, which pulls its imagery from Let’s Make A Deal. This is a darker song, continuing the mood from the previous number, but it is more melodic with touches of Mexican guitar playing in the rhythm. I haven’t mentioned Halford’s playing, but he is a solid guitarist who knows his way around a six-string.
Good Trouble is another song that has a quick tempo and Halford pulls out a Resonator guitar to give this song a little swamp feel. Country and Blues are not such distant cousins and occasionally a few elements fall from one and land on the other. This one works as a blues number, both in subject matter and delivery.
Halford is definitely not getting paid by the hour as his next song, 10,000 Miles, is another quick one, but this one is delivered at a lovely slower pace. The poetry in his lyrics is very sweet and the pedal steel guitar frames the words nicely. It’s a great travelling song.
The mood continues with the next song, Last Kiss. It’s a quiet song and one that evokes the memories of that last kiss. Halford’s got a way with his words and this one is sweet. It was a great choice to put these two songs together to create a connection between them.
He starts rocking on Bird Of Youth to show that he can throw down with the best of ‘em. It’s a solid song of searching. What can be more American than the search – whether it’s for a new life, lost youth, or just to see what’s around that next bend. It’s got a real backbone to it.
Sweet Annette opens up with some good guitar work and Halford drops his vocals into his lowest register to tell this story. It’s a series of pictures from the road and the kind of country song that they just don’t write anymore. This is the kind of country that evokes memories of what this country used to be like on the backroads. Excellent number and it’s going to be on my playlist for some time to come.
There’s some good harp kicking off Looking For A Home. This is the story of a family having to get out of their house – now – because the sheriff is evicting them. It’s a story that too many people have told, and the feelings that it dredges up are painful. It’s the story of many a country and blues song, and probably will never be completely mined. Lively beat though to offset the story.
He brings the album to a close with a sweet song, Great Divide. I love the imagery of the Great Divide being used to describe a relationship that has hit an impasse. His vocals are delivered with a world-weary resignation and you are just not sure how, or if, he’s going to recover. Plus, I love that Resonator guitar that he used for this song.
It's been a long time since I did any producing for any shows other than the blues. I know I would never be able to go back to doing them on a regular basis, but when I hear an album like Lo-Fi Dreams, I get the feeling that maybe it’s time for one more.
I’m grateful to the publicists and fans that bring music like this to my attention, there’s no way I would ever be able to keep with all of it by myself. If you are still reading this, and find yourself intrigued by this excellent singer-songwriter, you might want to check out his website http://jeffreyhalford.com/ and find out just what else he has to offer.
Me? I’m going back to play Sweet Annette one more time…