Saturday 4 June 2011

On Gary Heffern And His New Music

It’s been my privilege to know Gary Heffern for quite a few years now. We met in Seattle, neither of us natives to the place, but it was where we called home. Gary is a superbly talented singer and songwriter with not only an ear for a good line, but also a way of putting it across, a gift of writing songs that truly resonate, that can catch a deep kernel of truth in a few words.

In the new Millennium Gary moved to Finland, the country of his birth, although I didn’t know that until I watched a very moving documentary about the circumstances of his leaving, and what happened to him in California (see and it’s highly recommended viewing). He lives deep in the country there, where temperatures are bitter in winter and the nights can seem almost endless. But the dislocation of geography and culture has been good for him as an artist. His new album, Gary Heffern & Beautiful People, stands as one of his best. It’s very much as band album, as his new associates contribute tracks, and yet it hangs together as a whole, although (for me at least) it’s Gary’s work that stands out particularly. “Hand Of The Devil” is an epic opener, almost gospel (you can see the video at ) and true redemption, building and building, simple yet ambitious and a true barn burner. “Religions (They Really Worry Me)” riffs on – well, you can figure that out – over a chord sequence that’s reminiscent of REM’s “Losing My Religion,” although whether that’s deliberate or not is hard to tell. As a song it’s certainly in the same class as its better known sibling.

There are touches of Gary’s punk past on “Here Comes The Government,” while “Everything Is Slowing Down” is a meditation on life in part, and the entropy that can come with living and the depressions that can occur, while “It’s Gonna Be A Cold Cold Winter” finds the chill of the heart and soul as well as the temperature.

Gary’s words are everyday poetry, finding the beauty or the heartbreak in the mundane and shining a spotlight on it. With the Beautiful People he has a band that’s made up of some crack musicians who are very sympathetic to what he’s trying to achieve. Finland has been good for his artistic maturity – the material here reaches an entirely new level to his previous work. And this is just the start. Seattle might be far away for us both, in many senses, but moving on can be worthwhile, too.

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