California-based singer/songwriter/guitar slinger/poet Jeffrey Halford’s seventh CD, Rainmaker, is a musical mélange of Americana/folk, blues, rockabilly and roots rock. On his latest album Halford takes the lead on vocals, acoustic, electric and slide guitar. He is backed by his band The Healers: Paul Olguin on bass, Adam Rossi on keys and vocals and Michael Messer on drums.
The album opener is also the title track. It’s an effective mix of rock and blues that works well enough as an introduction to Halford’s malleable signature sound.
The second selection is “Lost Highway.” Halford is taking listeners on a musical journey. The track is a favorite of online critics and is fleshed out by guest guitarist/co-producer Bruce Kaphan (Talking Heads, Sheryl Crow and Black Crowes).
The first stop on this tuneful trip is “Mexico.” The tempo changes a bit as Halford moves in a new direction. Kaphan remains riding shotgun here.
The next number is “Play Some Vinyl.” Halford and the band veer off yet again in another direction as he retro-rocks it here. It’s a definite stand alone song that still works as part of the overall picture. Pam Delgado and Jeri Jones (Blame Sally) are brought in on backing vocals to give it that “je ne sais quoi.”
We spend the night at “Thunderbird Motel” although the band gets no rest here. One can’t help but wonder what inspired the song and if the place really exists. The band is backed only by guest violinist Kathleen Sloan whose touch is subtle enough that some critics don’t even notice.
“Second Chance” might be the closest thing this disc has to a regular blues bit yet Halford and the band quickly make it their own. It’s sad and full of regret and works with Halford’s vocal stylings. Delgado and Jones encore on background vocals.
“Nature’s Choir” comes next. It initially seems to be another lyrical “look back” and yet Halford and the Healers pick it up and turn this track into one of the best on the CD. It’s a travelin’ tune for sure and Kaphan comes along for the ride.
It’s nicely offset by another cut “North Beach.” While yours truly oft’times questions the order of songs on some CDs these two seem properly placed to provide the perfect presentation of the pair. Trey Sabatelli (Jefferson Starship, The Tubes and Todd Rundgren) is featured on drums.
“Cry Of Hope” seems to be a somewhat socio-political song that doesn’t slap you in the face. It’s a country-tinged track reminiscent of earlier work. It features guest guitarist Tom Heyman (Alejandro Escovedo), drummer Billie Lee Lewis and another appearance by Kaplan to boot.
“Harry We Need You” just plain moves but also has political undertones but again many listeners may miss it because it is thankfully friendly and subtle. It’s nostalgic, clever and doesn’t push a particular party per see. Actually if these two songs had not been included it might have been a disappointing disc.
After all, as previously mentioned, Halford has stated his younger days have contributed in part to his socio-political posings. He said: "When I came up, everybody was protesting," adding "When people didn't like stuff, they hit the streets and they protested. Lately, it's been so interesting in America politically; I've just felt a little bit more responsibility as a songwriter to shout out about some of these things that are happening to get people into the groove."
The closing cut is “Joaquin”. It’s a nice number that adds something to the overall picture. Delgado and Jones add backing vocals one more time to fill out the finale.
Check out Jeffrey Halford & The Healers’ Rainmaker. If you missed his previous work then consider this your “Second Chance.”
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.