Canadian-born musician takes classic blues and rock material to new destinations in energy-packed sessions with "the best damned bar band in the land."
Jeff Healey, arguably one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time, released a bustling, bright collection of tunes he's titled Mess of Blues. The CD is being released internationally by the German blues label Ruf Records, and in Canada by Edmonton-based roots music company, Stony Plain Records.
Mess of Blues was recorded late last year, with the musicians who regularly accompanied the guitarist at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse (named after the movie "Roadhouse") in Toronto. While most of the album was recorded in the studio, two tracks were in fact recorded live at the club, and two more cut at a concert in London, England. The Jeff Healey Blues Band was formed as a "house band" to accompany guests who sit in when Healey plays the club that carries his name in the Queen-Bathurst area, and to meet the ongoing international demand for the artist's powerful and unusual guitar work.
The guitarist called his group "the best damned bar band in Canada," and it consists of Dave Murphy on keys (he also sings on two cuts), bassist Alec Fraser (who co-produced the record with Healey), Dan Noordermeer on guitar and Al Webster on drums.
"Making this record is a chance to introduce the band to wider international audiences and give some great songs a new and fresh lease on life," says Healey.
Choosing the songs for Mess of Blues was easy, he said. "For the most part they're tunes that get the best response when we play them live, either on tour or at home in the club." Classics like "The Weight," "Jambalaya," "How Blue Can You Get," and "Shake Rattle and Roll" are all marked by Healey's innovative and sparkling guitar work.
Adds Healey: "I'm really grateful to Ruf Records for giving me the opportunity to show people that my respect for the blues remains as strong as ever, as does the commitment we all have to the people who come out to hear us when we play."
Quick background & biographical information
Healey first came to international acclaim in 1988 with his multi-million selling See the Light album on Arista Records and his appearance in the movie "Roadhouse" together with Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliott and Ben Gazzara. It was followed by two more releases, 1990's Hell to Pay and Feel This, released in 1992. Since then there have been two additional releases, the last in 2000, as well as a live CD and video recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and two "best-of" compilations of the Arista material.
In 2002 he released the first of three albums of classic jazz with the Jeff Healey Jazz Wizards, the classic jazz group with which he plays trumpet as well as guitar. The most recent Healey jazz record — a 2006 collaboration with British trombonist Chris Barber — was released internationally on Stony Plain, which has also reissued the first two jazz CDs.
Blind since early childhood due to a rare form of cancer, he picked up his first guitar when he was three, and began to play it flat across his lap, "accidentally" devising the revolutionary technique that became his signature style.
He formed his first band at 17, but soon formed a trio which was named the Jeff Healey Band.
After his appearance in the movie Road House, he was signed to Arista records, and in 1988 released the Grammy-nominated album See the Light, which included a major hit single, Angel Eyes. He earned a Juno Award in 1990 as Entertainer of the Year.
He had also begun to amass a formidable record collection and later created a CBC Radio show, which he named "My Kinda Jazz." (The programme still continues today on Toronto's 91.1 JazzFM station).
By the mid-'90s, Healey had played with dozens of musicians, including B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and recorded with George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and the late blues legend, Jimmy Rogers.
A family man with a three-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter he preferred to stay close to home. "I've traveled widely before — been there and done that," he said, determined to avoid the lengthy, exhausting tours that marked his life in his twenties and early thirties.
Despite this he still undertook two or three European tours a year with the blues band,
earning ear-splitting applause — and enthusiastic critical response — whenever he played.
Following a lengthy struggle with cancer, Healey passed away on Sunday March 2 in Toronto.
Remembered by his musicians — and his audiences — for his wry sense of humour as well as his musical playfulness, Healey was a unique musician who bridged different genres with ease and assurance.
- I'm Torn Down
- How Blue Can You Get
- Sugar Sweet
- The Weight
- Mess O' Blues
- It's Only Money
- Like A Hurricane
- Sittin' On Top of The World
- Shake, Rattle and Roll