Jeff Healey and Silverbirch hit #1 on Billboard

This is a bittersweet kudos for as most of you know, Jeff Healey passed away in March, 2008. We refer you to the following page on the Stoney Plain Records’ website for a well-written overview of Jeff’s life and accomplishments.

“Mess Of Blues”, Stoney Plain Records/Ruf Records, is the last recording Jeff Healey completed before his untimely death. It features the house band Healey assembled to perform blues/rock at his club in Toronto, Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse. The recordings include four live tracks and six studio tracks and the content is an eclectic mix of covers. It was produced by Jeff and award winning producer/mixer/bassist Alec Fraser. The mastering was done by Andy Krehm, our resident mastering engineer.

Andy also mastered Jeff’s previous three releases plus two more which will be released sometime in 2010.

Here are some thoughts and recollections from Andy Krehm:

“When producer/mixer/bassist Alec Fraser, a long-time client and friend, called to book a mastering session for “Mess Of Blues” I had no idea that Jeff’s illness was so serious. He’d battled cancer before and had overcome each bout but this time, it was not to be.

We completed the mastering of “Mess Of Blues” on February 24, 2008 and he passed away on March 2, 2008.

Although I mastered several albums for Jeff, he only came to my control room for the first album and didn’t stay long. I think he just wanted to introduce himself and give me an overview of what he was hoping to accomplish. When I mastered the next two, he met me on the front porch of our building to give me a disc of the files to be mastered. He would also come by when the master was ready to be picked up. Why he did that, when he could have sent the material over by messenger and have the final delivered the same way, I will never know but it was always nice seeing him, even for those brief moments. He was hospitalized while we were mastering “Mess Of Blues” so I never saw him again.

My impressions from my brief meetings and phone conversations was that he was fiercely loyal to his music “team” and a kind and honest man. He also had a good sense of humour!

I have an amusing story that I’d like to share with you.

For those of you who don’t know my background, I was a Toronto based studio and theatre guitarist for over twenty year before I became a full-time mastering engineer. Of course there was a lot of “glamourous” and high profile work that I did but like most busy free-lance musicians, I also had to do my share of “one-nighters” to fill in the calendar. These were anything from weddings and bar mitzvahs to outdoor park concerts. While they weren’t as prestigious or well-paying as playing on movie soundtrack for Porky’s or playing with the Pointer Sisters they did help to pay the mortgage!

One afternoon, I was playing with a Dixieland band at a park concert (yes, I had a white suit but no straw hat!) and during the first break, someone told me that Jeff Healey would be sitting in with us next set. So I asked if Jeff would like to use my guitar and/or amp and he said no.

The next thing I knew, we were on stage and up comes Jeff with Cornet (in the trumpet family) and proceeded to play that instrument very well! I was quite surprised as I only knew Jeff as a rock/blues guitarist.

What I didn’t know is that he had a lifelong love of traditional jazz and owned a huge vinyl record collection of 78’s and 45’s. In fact I didn’t start mastering his albums until he started recording trad jazz albums which was not until 2002. His first jazz album was “Amoung Friends” and he recorded two more in that genre before returning to his blues/rock style with his last album, “Mess Of Blues”.

I don’t believe that I ever told Jeff that I had actually met him and played on stage with him many years ago at that park concert but I’m sure he would have had a good chuckle at how our paths crossed earlier in life!”

On May 17, 2008, Jeff Healey’s “Mess Of Blues” hit #1 on Billboard’s “Top Blues Albums” Chart.

“Mess Of Blues” also received a nomination for a Juno Award in the BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR category and Jeff and his bandmates were suitably rewarded at the Maple Blues Awards in January/09.

And the crowning touch was that “Mess Of Blues” won the 2009 Blues Music Award for Rock Blues Album of the Year.

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