Friday, October 27, 2023

Archive Review: Garland Jeffreys' The King of In Between (2011)

When he is remembered – if he is remembered at all – Brooklyn, New York born-and-bred singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys is fondly recalled for either his 1973 FM radio hit “Wild In the Streets” and/or his lively remake of the garage-rock classic “96 Tears,” which brought Jeffreys his highest chart position and best-selling album in 1981’s Escape Artist. Part of Jeffreys’ obscurity is due to his intelligent, challenging lyrics, which often deal with urban life, racial strife, and other heady subjects set to music that cleverly welds streetwise rock ‘n’ roll with elements of blues, jazz, folk, and reggae.

After recording ten albums between 1970 and 1997, Jeffreys literally disappeared from the U.S. music landscape, instead traveling frequently to Europe where much of his back catalog remains in print, performing for a growing and appreciative audience. With The King of In Between, the 67-year-old musician has released his first album in better than 13 years, picking up almost exactly where he left off in the late 1990s. Jeffreys’ whipsmart lyrical observations on life in the Big Apple and beyond lack none of the bite of his earlier work, while the music on The King of In Between is every bit as eclectic and entertaining as ever.

“Coney Island Winter” opens with shimmering guitar and a deep rhythmic groove, Jeffreys’ half-spoken/half-sung words mesmerizing in their impact and intellectual depth. The funky “Streetwise” offers up haunting vocals, lush strings, and Larry Campbell’s imaginative fretwork while the rollicking “The Contortionist” features Lou Reed providing doo wop vocals behind Jeffreys’ pleading voice. The bluesy “‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me” is a sprawling boogie-rock tune that name checks Hooker, Bo Diddley, and James Brown while also evoking Elmore James.   

While not a conventional blues album per se, The King of In Between will appeal to blues and rock fans alike, Garland Jeffreys’ unique, eclectic sound a welcome antidote to music that too often draws from the same deep wellspring instead of painting with the entire bright spectrum of colors you’ll hear on The King of In Between. (Luna Park Records, released June 9th, 2011)

Review originally published by Blues Revue magazine, 2011

Buy the CD from Amazon: Garland Jeffreys’ The King of In Between

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