The Jeff Healey Band

Live at Montreux 1999

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Review

Canada's Jeff Healey burst on the scene in the late '80s with a pair of John Hiatt songs, "Angel Eyes" and "Confidence Man," drawing a good deal of attention for his unique laptop electric guitar style. A turn in the Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse playing a down-and-dirty version of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" also boosted Healey's profile, but although the blind guitarist is obviously a special and gifted player, his style and approach haven't changed one bit since, which is a good thing if you love what he does, but it makes most of his releases after the impressive debut album, See the Light, seem a bit like reruns. This live set recorded at ~the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1999 (two tracks, a cover of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and the Healey original "That's What They Say," are from a ~Montreux appearance two years earlier in 1997) likewise features few surprises, although Healey has added a second guitarist (Philip Sayce for the two 1997 cuts and Pat Rush for the 1999 set) to his longtime rhythm section of Joe Rockman on bass and Tom Stephen on drums. Healey's leads on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" amp the song up in all the right places, and he brings out the inherent heaviness in another Beatles tune, John Lennon's "Yer Blues." He breaks a string in the middle of "Roadhouse Blues," which is a bit like watching a NASCAR driver throw a wheel -- you don't want to see it happen, but it definitely makes things interesting. A chugging version of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breakin' Down" is a clear highlight. In the end, Healey and his band turn out solid, professional lues-rock, the kind of thing you'd expect from a top-notch ar band, and Healey is undeniably exciting as a lead player, but it all seems a bit caught up in a 1980s time warp. It would be nice to hear Healey expand his core sound a little with some soul or funk, say, or maybe go in the other direction and cover the Charley Patton songbook -- anything to add some freshness. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi