Of the many marks of genius associated with rock n’ roll greatness, the knack for surrounding oneself with transformational talent looms especially large, with The Rolling Stones being perhaps the most notable example. Jeffrey Halford treads a poetic rootsy path on his latest release, Soul Crusade, combining a bulletproof collection of songs inspired by gospel, folk, soul, and blues, with a formidable roster of musical contributors. The result is one of Halford’s most approachable and easy-grooving. That said, don’t be fooled by the conversational veneer—this is the kind of ease made possible only through lived experience. Halford’s hard-fought musical decades have brought him to a place of supreme musical wisdom. As you dive into the album and hear for yourself the combined confidence in his writing, playing, and singing, it’s easy to understand what drew his collaborators in.
Notable guest contributors include lap slide master Bruce Kaphan (REM, Jewel, The Black Crowes, Sheryl Crow),singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tom Heyman (Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet), and alt. blues pioneer Preacher Boy, Also Mark Karan (BobWeir). There’s some family magic afoot as well, with Jeffrey’s son and daughter Aaron and Hannah adding their skills to the mix. One familiar face in the crowd is Halford’s longtime musical partner Adam Rossi, who not only played drums and keys but also co-produced the album. “It’s basically Adam Rossi and I dialing in the feels,” said Halford. “We have 15 years of playing together so he gets it—he’s fast, creative and has an open mind.”
Seconds into the opening track, it’s immediately clear Soul Crusade is not just an album title—it’s a manifesto. “Another Skyline,” with its stately groove and plaintive melodies buffered by discreet horns and swelling organ, evokes the best of canonical roots-rocks legends such as The Band at their most gospel-inspired. The same can be said of the Al Green Esque “Walk to the River”—an early candidate for the album’s standout track. The Randy Newman, New Orleans inspired “Pie Eyed Poets Plea” is a standout. Bookending the collection is “Sad Sinking Feeling.” It’s an equally soulful composition, with a touch of that folksy “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” vibe, but the song’s easy swing also calls to mind “Harvest”-era Neil Young—a comparison that continues to hold water when listening to tracks such as “Wandering Kind” and “Pescadero.” The latter is one of Halford’s strongest vocal melodies, and if you don’t have a tear in your eye after hearing Halford rhyming “the winding road narrows” with “Pescadero,” then yours is a harder heart than most.
“This album explores dimensional love and the crazy times we live in,” Halford explains. “It started with some social issues that were bothering me and then moved to relationships which I feel is hard to write about.” An example is the song, “Sad Sinking Feeling”. “This was written in Boston. I had just left my son and it was a beautiful night. The song just came to me: In the fall/the falling leaves/drift through the trees/ my hearts on sleeve, I get that sad sinking feeling when you leave. As Hemingway once said, ‘write what’s true’. I experienced the same feeling after reuniting with another friend not seen for 20 years. Vulnerability is a new territory for me.”
Known for good stories and songs, Halford also surrounds himself with talented musicians who don’t worry too much about technical details of music. “Music is more about feel to me than technicalities.” Over the last 30 years Halford has been touring with his band, The Healers sharing bills with some of music’s most acclaimed artists and songwriters-as well as Halford’s influences-such as Taj Mahal, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, Greg Allman, Etta James, John Hammond, and Texas Greats Augie Meyers, Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen.
Fans who’ve been following Jeffrey Halford through his many musical decades won’t be surprised at the maturity and mastery on display throughout this impeccable collection of soulful folk-rock. He’s been building toward this kind of work his entire career, and there’s a deep pleasure in experiencing a master working at the peak of his power. For those new to the man and his music, you can look forward to discovering one of the great troubadours working in the Americana tradition.
European Tour Dates: (more to be added)
Thursday, October 13, 2022 Homburg (Saar) Denmark Mandy’s Lounge
Thursday, October 20, 2022 Hamburg Denmark Club am Donnerstag
Friday, October 21, 2022 Norderstedt Denmark MusicStar (supporting Krissy Matthews)
Saturday, October 22, 2022 Utrecht Netherlands Ramblin’ Roots Festival
Monday, October 24, 2022 Lint Belgium Groot Verzet
Saturday, October 29, 2022 Vernal Netherlands Hove Blues Festival
Sunday, October 30, 2022 Ruischerbrug, Zuidwolde en Thesinge Netherlands Meziek mit Bus Festival