Idaho born singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby is another of those musical souls that have been performing and perfecting their craft for many years. To be precise, Jeff has spent the past decade writing and performing throughout the United States and beyond, sharing his 'unique perspective of Americana'.
In this time, Jeff has released several albums both as a solo artist and with his band The Refugees who also join him on 'Waking Days'. Their sound has been described as a blend of 'Americana, folk and 70's inspired psychedelic rock' and elsewhere, something akin to 'dusty, dreamy rock and roll'.
The record was recorded mainly in Los Angeles at Bedrock Studios and partly in Nashville, produced by John Gilbertson and engineered by Rob Matson. The Refugees are Brother Andy Crosby on bass, Will Prescott drums, Dave Manion pedal steel and guitar whilst Jeff himself supplies lead vocals and guitar. 'Waking Days' also features some great guest musicians that add more pedal steel, drums, guitar and stand up bass.
I think I am right in saying the album was first released in 2015 in the USA. This version is for the European market and features a slightly different sleeve design and has two bonus tracks, 'This Old Town' and 'Oh Love, Oh Lord', both of which have been featured in the marvellous 'Sons of Anarchy' television series. As an aside, any of the 'Sons of Anarchy' sound track CD's are worthy of purchase, usually bargain priced and always a great introduction to some fine rootsy, Americana artists as well as boasting many a splendidly reworked cover version.
Opening track 'City Girls' perfectly sets out the albums stall, tumbling in all tight drums, bumping bass and sweet guitar fills topped with Jeff's vocal. He has a very present, immediate voice, strong and true with an authentic rasp that tonally sits somewhere between Chris Stapleton and Foy Vance. Cleverly arranged, the song builds subtly throughout, with some lovely harmonies and choppy rhythm guitar, which layers things nicely. Here and across all the tracks, there is a sense of space and time that really allows the music to breathe.
'Carved in Sandstone' is more obviously modern country with its chugging drums and pedal steel to the fore and an evocatively resigned opening line 'First day of spring back home' delivered in a husky, world weary drawl. This one was never going to end well!
'The Homeless and the Dreamers' is in your face, up tempo bar room rock with a classic John Hiatt feel to it, which is a very good thing in my book.
Track four 'Red. White and Blue' slows things down with an intricately picked acoustic guitar figure, atmospheric pedal steel and Jeff in storytelling mode, his voice sitting perfectly on top of the mix.
However, the country rock of 'Canyons' comes along next and quickly breaks up any sense of reverie and is a song I can imagine soon becoming a live favourite with its driving, hooky chorus.
This standard is maintained throughout the album and although the sound has an inevitable familiarity given its musical leanings, it is always fresh and interesting. Similarly, whilst ubiquitous Springsteen narrative references are unavoidable, to my ears the more contemporary Americana folk of Chris Stapleton, The White Buffalo, David Ramirez and Anderson East feel more relevant.
Two other stand out tracks for me are the glorious, fuzzed out rock of 'What's Normal Now?' and the second bonus track that ends the album 'Oh Love, Oh Lord' which comes across for all the world like a recently unearthed 'lost' song by The Band. This is an object lesson in how to end an album!
This is a fine album from Jeff Crosby and The Refugees. Strong songs, beautifully played and recorded which invoke that restless, archetypal Americana, country-rock sensibility whilst still managing to sound both contemporary and radio friendly. I'm very much hoping Bob Harris gets his hands on this one!
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