Jeffrey Halford Adds New Dimensions on Lo-Fi Dreams
To be sure, Jeffrey Halford and the Healers have arrived on the Americana music scene. It’s no small feat considering they hail from Mill Valley, California. As independent an artist as they come, with the help of Don Zimmer’s indie label, Floating Records, Halford’s new album, Lo-Fi Dreams, has garnered national and international attention as the release has shown up on the Americana Music Association playlist at #32 this week and at #6 on the EuroAmericana charts for July. No small feat for the often insular and selective world of Americana music.
The album represents a new direction for Halford, who in a recent interview said he was going for a more country-rock sound. “I was really going for something with a folkie-country groove.” He said. “But, how do you go for something original?”
For Halford, the decision was to strip down the sound of the production to emphasize the trio of Halford, Adam Rossi on piano, drums/percussion and Bill MacBeath on bass-including both electric and stand-up. The overdub sessions include guest artists Jimmy Dewrance on harmonica and on one song, “Door #3”, Tom Heyman is on pedal steel and electric guitar. The remainder of the album is the Halford’s core trio he calls the Healers. Going for a more immediate sound than multi-tracked recordings, Halford tried a new approach for Low-fi Dreams. “The album is mostly live in the studio.” Halford said. “We kept the drums down with no cymbals. Adam played a cajone and drum pedal snare.” Halford explained.
The result is the kind of phenomena that happens when a song takes on an added dimension enlarging the artist’s . It’s clear that Halford will never escape the blues that he is rooted in. But, this album brings an added focus on the singer and the song. There is a Muscle Shoals feel to these mostly live-in-the-studio sessions.
The Lo-Fi title of the album has a humorous backstory. “I used a 30-Watt Amp to get that sound on my guitar. Lo-Fi. The idea came from a time in Germany. It was a strange gig. The P.A. we were using was distorted. We were afraid the audience wouldn’t hear anything.” Halford remembers. “There was this guy there. He looked just like John Lennon. He came up to me and said, ‘I don’t like this kind of music, but I love your lo-fi sound.” There was the album title and concept one strange day in Germany.
Like his past albums, Lo-Fi Dreams brings engaging and skillful songwriting to the table along with a solid roadhouse feel from the music and production. The live nature of the sound helps capture this feel.
Halford’s songwriting process varies and reveals a love for American music and the quirky times we live in. The final song, “The Great Divide” is a good illustration of this. “I wrote that one really quick.” He says. “There was a songwriting style change with that one.” But, there is also something that is ‘cloaked,’ as Halford put it, in the heart of the lyrics. With his resonator in support the song begins from the perspective of a lost love, like Hank Williams along Leon Payne’s Lost Highway. It’s like a blues take on “Me & Bobby McGee.” But, beneath it, in the heart of the song, is the great divide that separates America today.
“Good Trouble” takes on the perspective of Senator John Lewis when, in 2016, he led a sit-in on the Senate floor to protest the lack of legislation for gun safety measures. Halford rightly describes the song as a ‘soul revival.’ “I was going for 60s soul music on this one with the tag line, ‘sometimes you’ve gotta get into good trouble. It’s got a ‘take me to the river’ feel to it. It turned into a country-rock-soul song. I would love for Mavis Staples to sing it.” Halford mused.
Another stand-out song on the album is “Elvis Shot the Television.” Halford remembers the song’s origins, “I was invited to play at a rock ‘n’ roll pool party in Laguna. There was this campy guy there dressed up like Elvis when he was in Las Vegas. He starts talking about how Elvis shot the television because Robert Goulet was on. It turns out Goulet moved in on Elvis’ girlfriend at the time.” Halford laughed. “I had fun with it.” He added.
As Halford and the Healers continue on the road in support of Lo-Fi Dreams, it appears the album has caught fire in Nashville. No small feat for an independent artist from the west coast in a town that tends to honor its own. They will continue touring the southland and in September and October will be touring Holland and Germany. With a fine record that gives Halford new dimensions on his songwriting, one hopes the powers-that-be in Nashville and Austin sit up and take notice.