Garland Jeffreys has been making provocative, personally charged urban rock and roll since the late 1960s. The “Brooklyn-born, socially conscious singer-songwriter who summed up a solo recording career of nearly half a century with 14 Steps to Harlem in 2017” (New York Times) has never been easy to pigeonhole but has always carried cultural significance well beyond his name recognition.
George Pelecanos wrote a scene in HBO’s “The Deuce” as an homage to Garland and the shows he performed wearing blackface masks back in the 70s. In UPROXX, when Pelecanos was asked “What’s the significance of the band doing the “96 Tears” cover at the bar in the finale?” he replied “It’s Garland Jeffreys. He was covering that song in the early 70s, and he’d sometimes perform it in blackface, though he’s half-black himself. When punk started in the ’70s, they were covering a lot of garage band songs in the ’60s that were punk before punk, and that was one of them. What we’re doing there is saying, ‘There’s something happening here, but it hasn’t been identified.’”
From proto-punk to rock to folk to blues to reggae (Bob Marley once said he was the best interpreter of reggae in the US) Jeffreys has long held the respect of his peers and the breadth of contributors to his recordings and performances reflect that, as well as an ahead of his time penchant for musical genre-bending: Dr. John, The E Street Band, John Cale, Michael Brecker, Larry Campbell, The Rumour, James Taylor, Sly & Robbie, Sonny Rollins, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Lou Reed among many more have recorded and performed with him. It’s a testament to both the broad appeal and diversity of his music that his songs have been covered by hardcore punk legends The Circle Jerks (whose version of “Wild in the Streets” is a skater anthem), psych-folkies Vetiver and jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker.
On his latest release14 Steps To Harlem, co-produced by James Maddock and featuring core band members Mark Bosch, Charly Roth, Brian Stanley and Tom Curiano, guest spots by Brian Mitchell, Aaron Comess and Ben Stivers, a gorgeous duet with daughter Savannah and a radiant violin solo by Laurie Anderson, Jeffreys delivers what fans have come to expect: edgy immediacy and literate, emotionally raw lyrics combined with a still supple voice capable of singing in a practically limitless number of styles. Critics have weighed in with:
More proof that he deserves musical comparisons that fall somewhere between Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Graham Parker — Pop Matters
One of rock's most compelling voices — American Songwriter
Shows the now 73-year old songwriter still reveling in the kind of wide-ranging songwriting that has today become a lost art — Stereophile
A 2016 Long Island Hall of Fame inductee, a NY Blues Hall of Famer, appearing in the Wim Wenders film “The Soul of a Man,” recipient of the prestigious Schallplattenkritik Prize in Germany and the Tenco and Premio Prizes in Italy, and performing at world-class festivals such as Byron Bay Blues, Montreux Jazz, Ottawa Folk and Fuji Rock, Garland Jeffreys will not go gently into that good night.
A Brooklyn native who could fairly be called the quintessential New York City musician — East Hampton Star
Backed by a crack band, Jeffreys bring his great songs, powerful voice and buoyant personality — The New Yorker
A seriously satisfying high-octane show — Huffington Post