Jeff Crosby and the Refugees
The Americana World Uncovers Another Diamond.
Touring virtually non-stop since the age of 19 (250 shows a year), Boise Id. home-boy Jeff Crosby has definitely honed his craft in the last 6 years.
While I can’t vouch for his previous two albums; this one is a right royal gem; even the cover shot of Crosby in mono; long hair and neatly groomed full-beard would have caught my attention in a record shop.
The opening track City Girls ticks all my boxes; with Crosby’s naturally sad voice making an intricate story and song about an imagined relationship; worth listening to over and over again; preferably late at night.
Crosby litters his songs with such intricate detail; I found myself concentrating more than usual as I wanted to find out how each story ended; usually not a particularly happy ending; but ones I entrusted my time to.
The pedal-steel and soft acoustic guitar that leads into Red, White and Blue lulls you into a false sense of security before Crosby breaks your heart with lyrics like ‘I see my Father and my Mother and their struggles/their times have changed/but we’re still mimicking their problems.’ This is a 21st Century pseudo-political song that will creep up and grab you by the lapels.
It’s a similar sorry tale with the more upbeat I Should Be Happy; the melody will make the casual listener pass it by; but take your time and savour the guy’s way with words; especially the way he describes the girl that ‘got away;’ and his life now ‘I’ve given up smoking cigarettes/so I can pay the rent.’ It works on many levels; and can be seen as an acute observation of life today for many people who make one small wrong decision.
In a similar vein is the anti-love song Only One I Need; which will have you craning your neck closer the the speakers to hear every beautiful word that he utters.
The only track I’m not keen on; and only because the crunchy electric guitars and droll Alt. Country stance of Waking Days sticks out like a sore thumb; when compared to the soft, sadness of what has come before. I wouldn’t be averse to hearing a whole album like it; but here? No.
Which brings me to by far my favourite song here; and one if Jeff Crosby stopped writing immediately after penning it he could retire a happy man. Homeless and Dreamers is an extraordinary song in an ordinary world. His sharply observant lyrics melt seamlessly into a wonderful melody as he walks among the disaffected and disenfranchised; that shouldn’t exist these days, but somehow Crosby makes a very dark subject into a beautiful love song.
I think we have unearthed another Country diamond here; Crosby will surely appeal to fans of all the great singer-songwriters from Dylan to Van Zandt to Earle and the host of others sneaking about in the shadows of this website.
Jeff Crosby and the Refugees; you heard it here first.
Released November 6th 2015