2011-06-14 The-Star-Ledger

Garland Jeffreys returns with new album, ‘The King of In Between’

nj.com | Jay Lustig/The Star-Ledger

Garland Jeffreys grew up near Coney Island, but when he sings about the area on “Coney Island Winter,” from his new album “The King of In Between,” it’s a modern view.

“Hark the angels, can’t pay the rent/Jobs are gone, they came and went/All the money has been spent/All the games are broken down/Rust is fallin’ to the ground,” snarls Jeffreys over a lean, propulsive beat.

“Coney Island Winter” was the last song Jeffreys, 67, wrote for the album. But it’s the opening track, and it sets the tone for what follows.

“To me, an album comes from a period of time, and it reflects what you think about what’s going on in the world,” says Jeffreys, who releases “The King of In Between” today. “ ‘Coney Island Winter’ said everything I really wanted to say, in a way, which is essentially that I don’t like this situation out here. I don’t like the way people are being treated.”

In the ’70s and ’80s, Jeffreys released lots of critical acclaim for his gritty but poetic albums, and was a frequent presence on FM radio with songs such as “Wild in the Streets,” “96 Tears” and “R.O.C.K.”

He hasn’t recorded much since, then, though: “The King of In Between” is his first album in 14 years.

“I’m thrilled about it,” he says. “I can’t say enough about playing again, performing and having a brand new record come out. It’s more than a tonic, I’ll tell you that.”

Jeffreys is a lifelong New Yorker, but tours more frequently in Europe than in the States. He has had a high profile there ever his 1979 single “Matador” became a Top 10 hit in many European countries.

“I have a band in Belgium, which is great,” he says. “I go over and play a number of band shows, in Luxembourg and Belgium, and occasionally we do shows in Germany and France. So I like that. It’s become very easy for me. But I’ve gotten the itch to perform everywhere now.”

One of the reasons is that his daughter, Savannah Jeffreys, is now 15, and starting to perform her own music.

“What am I going to do? Sit around and watch her become a big star?” says Jeffreys.

His current itinerary includes shows in New York, June 22, and Teaneck, July 21, as well as various other locations on the East Coast and in Europe.

“People are asking me to do every kind of thing, and I’m sort of in a place where I don’t want to turn anything down, whether it’s for money or not,” he says. “I haven’t turned anything down in months.”

In the past, Jeffreys has often had high-profile musicians playing on his albums — Dr. John, Sonny Rollins, James Taylor and Phoebe Snow have all made appearances — and “The King of In Between” continues the tradition, with Lou Reed and reggae great Junior Murvin on hand.

Jeffreys and Reed have been friends since the ’60s, when they attended Syracuse University together.

“We used to hang out a lot at this bar called the Orange,” says Jeffreys. “Our interest in each other was music — that’s how it started. It was a really good connection. I remember when we first connected about music, it had a lot to do with singers like Frankie Lymon — great voices from New York. Street-corner singers.”

Recently, Reed took Jeffreys to see a show by veteran jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott, a friend of Reed’s, at the Blue Note in New York.

“He was in a wheelchair; he’s about 85 years old,” says Jeffreys. “And he was fantastic. And I said, ‘wow, there you go. There’s the example.’ ”

“And then you start thinking about all the people like John Lee Hooker, all these people who have stood up and refused to go down, into their 80s. So that’s what I’m thinking. I’m working on a 90-year plan, I like to say.”

Jeffreys addresses the subject of growing older on two bluesy “King of In Between” songs, the upbeat “ ’Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me” (where he sings “I’m not getting any younger, but I’m not feeling very old”) and the reflective “In God’s Waiting Room” (where he sings about “Laughing at the notion of death”).

“It’s an inevitability,” says Jeffreys, “but we’re not going to let it get in the way.”

Jay Lustig: (973) 392-5850 or jlustig@starledger.com


Where and when: The Bottom Line presents “New York on My Mind” with Rosanne Cash, Marshall Crenshaw, Loudon Wainwright III, Dar Williams, others, at Rockefeller Park, Battery Park City, New York, June 22 at 7 p.m.; Mexicali Live, 1409 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, July 21 at 8 p.m.

How much: No charge for New York; call (212) 267-9700 or visit rivertorivernyc.com. $25 for Teaneck; call (201) 833-0011 or visit mexicalilive.com.

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