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CD Review: Jeff Healey

Mess of Blues



The Deal: Jeff Healey's last stand a testament to his god-like bar band status – you wouldn't want to follow this act.

The Good: He wasn't a household name, but if you ever saw or heard Jeff Healey you're not likely to forget him. Healey played guitar with the instrument laid flat in his lap. But instead of using a slide like a lap steel, Healy pressed down with his fingers, bending strings with his thumb for a sound like a merger between Albert Collins, Duane Allman and B.B. King. Healey passed away March 3 from cancer, leaving behind this final collection of covers as a last will and testament. Not band favorites, he says in the liner noes, but ones that got the biggest crowd reaction over the years. It's great stuff, all over the place from a rollicking version of Hank Williams "Jambablaya" to a version of "The Weight" that sounds like Duane Allman's cut with Aretha on 1972's Anthology. Healeys' drop-down fretting hand style allows him to move across the strings with the versatility of a pianist, rocking like Big Joe Turner on "Shake Rattle and Roll."

The Bad: Healey passed away at 41 – would have loved to hear more music of this caliber.

The Verdict: Some of the best blues and rock 'n' roll of this, or any, generation. The covers don't drag up the past, they give it a new life that often rivals that of the originals. It's equally at home filed under blues or rock, but it's way too lively to be buried.

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