Tag Archives: Jeffrey Halford

Jeffrey Halford – West Towards South – Liner Notes

West Towards South - Liner Notes

This is really one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. I wrote liner notes!

Jeffrey Halford’s new release, West Towards South, is such a beautiful album, and to be accorded the honor of penning liner notes for the vinyl edition is something I will remain proud of—and humbled by—for the rest of my life.

Liner notes have really been a kind of school for me; I think I’ve learned more about music from the backs of albums than just about any other source I can think of, and with this album, I did my very best to live up to my heroes: Samuel Charters, Chris Strachwitz, Dick Waterman, and oh, so many more …

I can’t encourage you enough to listen to this record, and if you’re able, please get the vinyl. Not because of my liner notes (though I’ll of course be thrilled if you read them!), but because these are the kinds of songs that should be savored the way we used to savor our LPs; we listened to them over and over again, song by song, in order, as we read, and pondered, and felt, and were moved.

Congratulations to you, Jeffrey Halford, on a remarkable musical achievement, and thank you for inviting me to play a small role in the story of Ambrose and Cyrus …

Jeffrey Halford – West Towards South

liner notes by Christopher “Preacher Boy” Watkins

Mostly, there is the story.

West Towards South recalls the work of Sam Shepard or William Goldman who do similarly expert jobs of transporting us to other tragic worlds with fierce degrees of rustic authenticity. But this is music, and there is of course precedent for what Halford has done here—after all, it’s not the first time we’ve heard rebel tales in roots leathers rendered with dirty slide guitars and trash can drums. But Halford has something that sets him apart; something at his disposal reserved only for the true masters of the form—a life deeply lived, and a craft finely honed.

Where Halford hits his most killer musical stride is on songs like “Three-Quarter Moon,” with its laudanum-laced shamble ambling along like an opioid “West towards South”; or on “A Town Called Slow,” with its percolating minor-chord syncopations swinging out a warning: “This is how this deal goes down.” In both cases, the lurching grooves and atmospheric spackling act as sonic enactments the broken narratives they share.

As he sings on the beautiful folk ballad “The Sea of Cortez”:

I got a notion I can’t explain
I never been here, but I feel like I’m home again

One of the great pleasures of gifting yourself the experience of repeated deep listening to an album such as this one is the opportunity to discover little kernels of magic not necessarily consciously registered the first time around; little repeating tropes, little bits of flavor and color that recur in blurring whirls that last only long enough to provide a sense of fragile continuity. One such reappearing motif is the notion that something won’t end well. I’ll offer no spoilers as to how the story actually ends for the brothers—you’ll need to listen to the record for yourself to find out—but picture the scene: Ambrose with a noose around his neck, spitting invective at his judges:

Any last words Ambrose?
Well, you can all go to hell
But I just want to tell you
That this might not end well

Three bell chimes later, the hangman is dead, the preacher is face down on the ground, and the music goes careening off into a sadistic spaghetti western march. I got chills the first time I listened to “Gallows.” You will as well

Jeffrey Halford’s reputation as a songwriter is hard-earned and well-deserved, and his rough-hewn voice and urgent slide guitar are hallmarks of his soulful sound. But with West Towards South, Halford can now confidently add “storyteller” to his byline, for he’s created something so many strive for, and yet too few achieve—a genuine Americana concept album that is simultaneously devoid of pretension, and richly authentic. If Cormac McCarthy played guitar, he’d have a regular slot at The Sad Cafe, and folks would come from miles around to hear him sing “The Ballad of Ambrose and Cyrus.”

—Christopher “Preacher Boy” Watkins

365 Days of Album Recommendations – June 10

Jeffrey Halford & The Healers – Lo Fi Dreams


Trying to parse the complex interfusion of influences that courses through Jeffrey Halford’s blood is a bit like trying to sequence the DNA of a primate—on the one hand, it’s almost shocking how familiar so much of it is, but at the same time, you know you’re spelunking into the soul of a creature very different from you.

If Lo Fi dreams isn’t the best LP of this veteran troubadour’s exemplary career, it’s at least certainly the defining one—and it’s quite possibly the best at that.

How to describe what Halford has achieved here? How to explain the nuances of sound that make up this deceptively straightforward roots-rock release?

Start with this sonic vision: Imagine Jimmy Dale Gilmore singing Tom Waits’ “Get Behind The Mule.” Then throw in a healthy dose of Alejandro Escovedo circa A Man Under The Influence, and add in a touch of Gram Parsons, with a flavor not unlike “We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In the Morning.” Add in some winsome Live at the Old Quarter-style Townes Van Zandt, and then have Jeff Tweedy sing something off Greg Brown’s Slant 6 Mind, with Bo Ramsey layin’ down the slide. Finally, maybe drop in a hint of 80’s roots-punk à la The Blasters and The Beat Farmers, and then hitch the whole thing to a truck being driven by John Fogerty and Levon Helm, and I guess you’d get something close to what Halford manages to so seamlessly assemble.

Full disclosure, I first met Mr. Jeffrey Halford way back in the early 90’s—during the glory days of San Francisco music—and I’ve been a fan ever since. His heart is of the on-the-sleeve type, and he’s got all the things you need to do what he does—a deep soul, a sharp pen, a cracked voice, and the calluses to play like you mean it.

A lot of what I recommend on this blog are LPs by artists long gone. Not so here. Halford is out there doin’ it right now, and this, his newest album, is as good as anything you’ll find in the field. Don’t miss your chance to get on board with someone who’s alive and well, and making the best music of his long career.




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