Picks and Pans Review: Hell to Pay
The Jeff Healey Band
The stable of rock heavyweights playing along on Healey's second album suggests that the buzz the young blind guitarist created two years ago with See the Light is still going around. Mark Knopfler wrote one tune here, for instance, and George Harrison and Jeff Lynne lend guitar and vocal touches to a raucous version of Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
But this is still Healey's show, and while he gets tripped up by some clichéd song-writing, guitar disciples can look to Healey for inspiration and emotion. It's scary to think about how good he'll be in 10 years.
While he seems to be leaning toward a harder rock edge, Healey still derives much of his inspiration from the blues. On his own "I Can't Get My Hands on You," he eerily (perhaps intentionally) evokes Eric Clapton in his days with Cream. His solos swoop and soar like a seagull in flight and generate a breathless excitement. Healey adapts to Knopfler's style on "I Think I Love You Too Much," and their guitar weave near the end of the song shows two pros working with, not against, each other.
There are some shortcomings. Healey gets carried away at times by the distorted sound of his own guitar, ignoring the possibility of slowing things down and discovering more subtle phrasing. His voice remains limited to one range, which doesn't help the more pedestrian songs (such as the title track). But Healey will no doubt fine-tune his vocal style with time and experience. He's already a first-stringer among pop guitar players. (Arista)
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