Jeff Healey soars to even greater musical heights on Songs From the Road
Songs from the Road (Stony Plain)
I saw the original Jeff Healey Band play numerous times in the ’80s at Vancouver venues like the Yale and the 86 Street Music Hall. While always blown away by the searing talent of the young blind dude with the Strat on his lap, I couldn’t help thinking that his rhythm section was holding him back some. He was an astonishing player, but his bandmates were only average.
That inconsistency didn’t hamper the group Healey fronted in the years leading up to his 2008 death, at the age of 41, from cancer. With bassist Alec Fraser and drummer Al Webster providing world-class backup, Healey was inspired to soar to even greater musical heights, as he often does on Songs From the Road, a collection of tracks recorded in Norway, Toronto, and London, England in 2006 and 2007. Guitarist Dan Noordemeer and keyboardist-harmonica player Dave Murphy rounded out Healey’s topnotch band at the time.
From the crystal clear drum beat of the opening track, “I Think I Love You Too Much”, it’s obvious that Fraser, who also produced and mixed Songs From the Road, is adept at capturing live sound. And when Healey comes wailing in on guitar it’s pure joy to a blues-rock fan’s ears. His out-of-control solo on that Mark Knopfler–penned song drips with reckless abandon and feel; no wonder he’s compelled to holler “Yeah!” in the middle of it. When Healey sets the frets ablaze on Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” and his hit version of John Hiatt’s “Angel Eyes” it’s easy to picture him up in heaven matching Stevie Ray Vaughan note for note, while Hendrix nods appreciatively from the wings. He really was that scary-good.
After fellow Canuck guitar star Randy Bachman delivers a frenzied solo himself on Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man”, a clearly impressed Healey proclaims: “Even people from Winnipeg can play the blues, you know that. It gets cold enough out there.” Lucky for us it was also chilly enough in T.O. for a blind kid to want to pick up a guitar, figure out a totally unique way to play it, and then spend a couple of decades showing the world how it was done.
Download This: “I Think I Love You Too Much”