For more than four decades Garland Jeffreys has been playing, writing, performing, always close to the top, but somehow remaining the invisible man who never gets inside, or when he does get inside, he remains invisible. Maybe it’s because he’s half black and half Puerto Rican and all American and he sings about it.
From his earliest records, Jeffreys mixed up various genres of American music, early rock ’n’ roll and doo wop, R&B and soul, blues, reggae, harder rock with a Velvet Underground edge, Dylan and The Band, and folk music sliding through and combining it all in a way that seemed effortless. No wonder the various major labels he recorded for never knew what to do with him.
On top of it all, Jeffreys is a writer. This was made clear by the title of his second solo album and his masterpiece, Ghost Writer, released 36 years ago. Jeffreys is a poet and he has a poet’s appreciation of language. He knows how to take a word or a phrase and repeat it in a way that let’s the word’s natural rhythm do its work. Like Bob Dylan, he knows how to take a common phrase or cliché and turn it around and use it for his own purposes in a way that makes you forget it was a cliché to begin with.
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