Lately it has been feeling like everybody wants to make Americana great again, whether it be by incorporating alternative-style frills to its framework, or in expanding on the genre’s imagery by adding elements of 21st century prose into its ancient style of storytelling, but I get the idea that Jeffrey Halford & the Healers have no interest in messing with an already perfect formula. For this Americana outfit, there’s nothing quite like playing to the patented persona that the genre has used to occupy our hearts for centuries, and that’s why I think that their new album West Towards South could be the most brooding and genuine record that fans of the style can turn to for hot harmonies this month.
Halford doesn’t hold anything back from us in West Towards South, and in “Deeper than Hell” and “Sea of Cortez,” we’re privy to some of his most sensuous singing ever committed to tape. I became a fan of the Healers a few albums ago, and while I was a bit underwhelmed by Lo Fi Dreams, I hear a lot of magic in this record that shares the same glowing resonance that some of the stars of their last release tried to impart. “Willa Jean” is as unrestrained as “Three-Quarter Moon” is, but not once does the band ever descend into rock-inspired recklessness.
The mix employed in West Towards South has a lot more in common with rock n’ roll than it does country/western or folk music, and there’s actually a balance of both influences in the music here as well. “A Town Called Slow” feels like a slowed down roots rock jam, and were it given a bit of overdrive, I think that the exotic “Dead Man’s Hand” could be a real showstopper in an electric capacity, if the band were interested in playing it that way at least. These songs have good bones, and that’s really all that matters when a group like Jeffrey Halford & the Healers take the stage armed with their uncontrollable chemistry.
Addictive hooks in “Deeper than Hell” and the title track make both songs really terrific radio fodder, and despite the progressive structure of the material, I don’t think that it would be too terrible a crime to cherry-pick from this set of songs with a shuffle button. Whether you’re listening to them in the order intended by the band or mixing them up and embracing the abrasiveness of this melting pot of music, the tracks in West Towards South tend to yield the same emotional connection with listeners by the time they’ve finished telling their mythical tale (in some form or another).
Jeffrey Halford & the Healers have never sounded as tight as they do here, and for those who would have the audacity to doubt that a band six records-deep into their career could still dish out the lyrical lightning that they did in their debut, West Towards South should suffice as incomparable evidence on the contrary. In these ten songs, we get a look at this group like none other we’ve ever been afforded before, and are reminded once more why they’ve risen through the ranks of their scene as effortlessly as they have.