Jeff Healey was a Canadian blues guitarist par excellence. Sadly he died at the young age of 41 from cancer. He had endured the disease previously when he was blinded in childhood by a rare form of ocular cancer, despite this disability he was determined to play the guitar. Jeff developed his own inimitable style (playing the guitar on his lap, like a steel player) and with it became one of the most revered guitarists of this century. The way he approaches the instrument may be unconventional, but his playing and sound are phenomenal. He has drawn praise from some of the finest players in the biz including Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, John Mayall, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.
After the release of the acclaimed Heal My Soul, which has been cited as the pinnacle of Jeff's career, five outtakes that were recorded during the same period (96-98) have been discovered and put together as a companion piece to the original album. Alongside the new tracks is a live recording of a concert in Oslo from 1999. From both these studio and live recordings you really get a measure of what a miraculous talent and a tragic loss to the musical world Jeff Healey was.
His playing is razor sharp, endless emotive and filled with passion and beauty. He can use his guitar to declare war with some high-class shredding in I Can't Get My Hand's On You or make love on I Think I Love You Too Much.
Love Take Time is an incendiary number to rival Robert Cray or any other blues master you care to mention. Every Other Guy and Dancing With Monsters are blessed with outstanding musicianship and wonderfully textured vocals that are soulful, rugged and deeply melodic. All that I Believe has a terrific grinding riff, juxtaposed with a wistful melody and gloriously harmonious chorus. These outtakes are a stellar addition to the Heal My Soul album and are up there with some of the finest material Jeff recorded.
The live section gives a flavour of the attitude and un-sanitized pizzazz of Jeff and his band when they are in front of a crowd. Jeff's wise crack comments are cheeky and fun, such as when he teases the band for needing Tequila to play. My Little Girl, Macon Georgia Blues and Stuck In The Middle all feature, plus an astounding version of I Can't Get My Hands On You.
The split of the album between live and studio really gives us a chance to explore Jeff's work as an artist and a performer. On both counts, his work stands up as some of the best modern blues ever produced. Holding On is an astonishing partner album and the perfect bookend to complete Jeff's recording legacy: inspiring, honest, defiant and brilliant.
Groupie Rating: 5/5