Robert Heft Releases New Solo Album: “Sundog”
Reviewed by Dale Nickey:
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/26/16 – Robert Heft is a musician you tend to bump into on the local Blues/Country circuit. Ostensibly a Blues guitarist, I met Heft at a gig playing for the classic country band The Rustix. We were playing a free concert in Palos Verdes for about 500 people. Heft, drummer Robbie Rist (and yours truly) had never met until we shook hands five minutes before sound check. No rehearsal. We all came armed only with a set list and raw chutzpah. Robert Heft was booked for the gig because two other guitarists had cancelled at the last minute.
Well, the concrete stage and the open air acoustics conspired to turn the onstage sound into a mushy din. However, all the post gig feedback from fans revolved around how awesome our guitar player was. Luckily my wife Renee filmed the show. Viewing the video was a revelation. Heft was the best guitar player I ever shared a stage with.
Robert Heft has released a new solo album titled “Sundog”. It’s a comfy romp through various styles of American roots music: Blues, Rockabilly, Swing, Pop, Rock and Soul. However, the spine of the record is The Blues. The playing and arrangements are tight and expert. But, the standout element is Robert Heft’s guitar playing. He can play with impressive speed without sounding fiddly, or go slow-hand when the situation dictates. Moreover, (as a producer) he knows when the imperfect take is the best take. His voice is as comfortable and weathered as a vintage pair of Levi’s and never forces the issue.
What follows is a track by track overview of “Sundog”:
- It Don’t Matter – An energetic slab of Blues/Soul. Heft throws flames throughout. The spicy horn section has a buzzy compressed sound reminiscent of The Beatles, “Lady Madonna”.
- Got Her Mind Made Up – A swingy, horn driven song employing a favorite trope of bluesmen the world over; the suspicious ball-busting woman. Call and response vocals from the group give this track a 50’s era ‘big band’ feel.
- Never Last – A standout tune that showcases Heft’s strengths as a songwriter and lyricist. A boomer’s lament about the passage of time and the wisdom acquired along the way. Key line: “Days turn into years, years turn into tears streaming down the face of our past”. On this cut, Heft plays all the instruments save drums and percussion.
- High Class Man Boogie – Classic Blues/Rock stomper that brought to mind Gary Moore. The no frills rock arrangement gives Heft room to shred a bit.
- Nobody – Moody ballad that boasts Heft’s strongest vocal performance. Tasteful solo sax fills (Jeff Ackerman) weave in and out of the mix.
- Don’t Need You Anymore – Standard 9th chord Blues cruise that recalls Otis Spann’s recording of “No More Doggin” with Fleetwood Mac.
- Give Me Back My Heart – Heft turns his hand to some Rockabilly. Blues harp makes its first appearance on the record and trades licks with Heft’s masterful Telecaster riffing.
- Sundog – Title track and an elegant instrumental piece that showcases Heft’s versatility on slide guitar. Tasteful Rhodes piano solo in the middle. Would love to hear this piece with a full string section.
- Round and Round – No nonsense Rock and Roll with Heft throwing down some Chuck Berry styled ‘two note’ riffing. Here, the arrangement is a little too tight and polite for this writer. On this tune, a little drunken mayhem (ala Mott the Hoople) would have sat well in the mix.
- Worried Mind – Solid riff rock featuring some searing slide work thick as molasses. This track took me back to the halcyon days of British blues rockers Savoy Brown.
- Tell Me That You Love Me – A writerly tune that’s strong out of gate with some tastefully composed multi-tracked lead work. Considering the narrative arc of the album, this is the perfect tear-jerking closer. Exceptional vocal cameo by Susan Rey. Fans of Blind Faith and Derek and The Dominos will find comfort here.
For every Eric Clapton there is a Robert Heft productively plowing their artistic furrow absent the glare of celebrity. Heft is not only an artist, but a skilled engineer/producer who owns and operates his own studio. It’s somewhat depressing that musicians of this caliber can fly so low below the cultural radar, while less substantial musicians and writers pull the winning lotto ticket of fame and fortune.
When all is said and done, “Sundog” is a fine album that would adorn the collection of any Blues/Rock enthusiast. Simply put, Robert Heft is a helluva guitar player. The type of guitar player that makes guys (like me) switch to bass.
Check out Robert Heft’s discography at >>>> http://www.robertheft.com/store.html