Add a bit of straight-ahead jazz touched with New Orleans, a bit of stripped down folk and Americana, top it with some of the cleverest lyrics you’ve heard in some time, and you’ve got If I Walked on Water, the new album from Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires. It may not be the most commercial of albums. It has an almost minimalist feel in an age that favors big production values, but it has just that old style vibe that will appeal to the right audience.
The nine songs on the album are all written by Hefko, who also does the vocals and plays tenor sax, clarinet, and even a little acoustic guitar on a couple of tracks. Hefko has the kind of clear toned, laid back voice that brings the lyric front and center. He makes sure you can understand the words, and that’s all to the good, because these are lyrics that deserve to be understood. Take the title song for instance, filled with biblical images to describe the essence of the singer’s love. It plays with miracles from moving mountains, parting seas and brand new arks, to more contemporary images like a call from the jailhouse. It is a truly inventive lyric. As is “Color Me Blue,” a tune in which he plays with a giant pack of Crayolas to create a rainbow of color allusions. The Dixieland accompaniment is sweet, with some nice work from the horns.
“Greyhound Coach” has the sound of an old style folk ballad, while “This Song Won’t Sound the Same” has a swinging vibe which leads to some featured solo work by the guys in the band. “Get on the Train and Ride” is a laid back rocker that will get your foot tapping. The album closes with “You Took Away the Best Part,” an instrumental with a haunting melody and another opportunity for the band to show its solo chops.
Hefko is joined on the album by a stellar crew: Satoru Ohashi on trumpet and valve trombone, Luca Benedetti on lead and rhythm guitar, Scott Ritchie on upright bass, and Moses Patrou on drums, percussion, and backing vocals. Special guests include Billy Blend on the Hammond BV organ and Neil Thomas on according.
If you like witty lyrics sung with style, if you like tuneful melodies played with some down home flair, if you like simplicity that may not be quite as simple as it seems, you’ll want to give a listen to the songs on If I Walked on Water. You’ll like what you hear.