Jeffrey Gaines is a name you should be familiar with because he’s been putting out thoughtful, soul-clenching, highly personal and rewarding music for over 25 years. Alright is his first album is 15 years (!) and it’s a corker. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Price (whose production resume includes acclaimed recent comeback efforts by Emitt Rhodes and Linda Perhacs, as well as his own widely celebrated second solo effort, Stop Talking), Alright features an all-star studio band consisting of guitarist Val McCallum (Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams), bassist Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello, Cracker, John Hiatt), and drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Elliott Smith), who also record on their own as Jackshit.
”The whole experience of making this album was just a joy from beginning to end,” Gaines asserts. ”We didn’t have a lot of time, so there was no fooling around. We just went in and knocked it out. Everybody played great, so it was an inspiring situation. The musicians have similar influences to me, so we were all on the same page, and I picked the songs I thought would suit this group of musicians. It was cool to have a structure, but at the same time it was also loose and organic.”
Alright’s title, Gaines explains, is a reflection of the mood in the studio during recording. ”It’s just what everybody kept saying over and over again while we were making the record,” he says. ”People would come into the studio and listen to a track and say Hey, that’s alright!’”
Opening with the crisp, aptly titled “Feel Alright”, there’s an instant breeziness and, indeed, good feeling that washes over you, even before Mr. Gaines’ warm vocals begin. The acoustic guitars are tasteful; the rhythm section tight and the countrified runs between the verses are the just-right touch; “Firefly Hollow” kicks along at that delightful on-the-road kind of gait; rolling with punchy rhythm and catchy to no end; at moments, it recalls Tom Petty during the immediate post-Full Moon Fever period and is an early, easy highpoint. The yearning but never over-dramatic “No Longer” is a contemplative breakup song that doesn’t fall prey to the usual fodder of “why, oh why?” but looks at a split from both sides with wisdom and some wry perspective (listen closely to the lyrics…); “Promise Of Passion” is an explosive rocker that grabs you by the throat, reminiscent of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, circa This Year’s Model – frenetic, taut and driven by a hypnotic organ and cascading guitars (and is an absolute killer standout) and “I Will Be” is a perfect radio track – guitars galore, piano punches and, again, highly catchy – listen for the chorus.
Jeffrey Gaines may have been out of the game for a while, but he hasn’t lost a step. His pairing up in the studio with Chris Price is a masterstroke – the sound of this album is glorious – and he’s in league with some absolutely stellar players. And that combination has created a winning album that simply must not be overlooked, passed or missed. That would be a crime – and that’s not alright.
Alright is currently available