Jeff Connell

Jeff's eyes


About Jeff Connell

So, how does a kid from an island in Northern Ontario, Canada fall in love with the blues?

Jeff playing the guitar

It's not a particularly unique story. I'm sure it's the same for a lot of people my age—through the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the blues and rock bands of the 60s and 70s. When I realized that some of my favourite Rolling Stones songs like Love in Vain and Stop Breakin' Down were written by Robert Johnson, my world started to change.

At 15, I started a band with my friends. We wrote and recorded some original songs and got air time for a couple of them on local radio. I remember playing some of the bars along the north shore of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. One summer night at the Country Place Tavern in Echo Bay the place was jammed past capacity so they closed the doors. This didn't help. People just started climbing through the windows and pulling their friends in after them. It was so much fun. During one date at the Bayview Tavern in Bruce Mines Ontario a paving crew working on Highway 17 got into a helluva dust up with some of the local boys. We played on – I think we were in the middle playing of Sympathy for the Devil. I loved every second.

We were kids then. People grow up, get real jobs (and mortgages), get married, get divorced, and have families. I woke up one day, realized I was 43 years old and that all I had done for the last 20 years was work. I'd given up one of the most important things to me.

I love music. I love to play music. So, I got off my ass. I got a smokin' hot band together. Then I spent the last four years making this album.

Faithless, is eight tracks of guitar-based cedar-swamp blues/rock that, to my own surprise, I've been writing in my head for the last 25 years. I just needed to take some time to get it out of me. It's got some straight blues, blues rock, full-on rock and roll, and even a tinge of country. I'm not sure what to call it but I'm reminded of a quote attributed to John Lee Hooker from Buddy Guy's autobiography, They c-c-c-c-c-c-can call it whatever the f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fuck they want. Long as they p-p-p-p-p-p-p-pay. (John Lee Hooker had a stutter, unless he was singing.)

The Album

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Side A

Bitch Next Door started as a joke between friends and turned into a song about the neighbours we love to hate. I take some shit for the title and lyrics. I certainly didn't set out to intentionally offend anyone but, on the other hand, it's rock and roll. I didn't invent using the word "bitch" in a song. And before you start slagging the hip hop acts, I'm talking about Neil Sedaka, Elton John, David Bowie and, of course, the Rolling Stones to name just a few. The song evolved from a simple joke to a real song after I saw the reaction the demo got from people. They'd chuckle to themselves at first, then start telling me about the self-appointed mayor of their street or the dude who walks the halls of their apartment building in just his gitch and a hockey sweater. After we got it down, I really wanted that guitar lick that opens the track to be the first sound people hear when they drop the needle on the album.

The title track, Faithless, begins as a reflection on self-doubt that dips into self-hatred by the second verse. I wrote the lyrics waiting for the red eye back to Toronto after a long, rainy day in Vancouver. It probably shows. Simon and I had written the music months before and made a rough recording. I listened to that recording over and over but no words were coming. Until then. When they came, it took about 10 minutes to write. My pen could barely keep up with my mind. In the end, this might be my favourite track.

Soul Witch is a straight-ahead rocker about that person in your life that you know isn't good for you, but can't resist. For the guitar geeks, that's a Gibson Les Paul through a Swart MK II. I love Simon's wah pedal in the solo. Alana Bridgewater's backing vocal is so strong that we mixed it based on Merry Clayton's vocal on Gimme Shelter. The real star of this show, however, is Maurizio's drums.

I basically wrote Gone So Long so I could play that lazy slide guitar line and harmonica. I wanted the lyrics to be a nod to lines used in traditional blues and I wanted the track to be super sparse. After several takes, it wasn't happening. There was just too much racket. It got to the point where I threatened to throw everyone out of the studio and record it with just one guitar and the vocal. This tactic worked and a pretty good compromise was quickly reached. I think the sparseness of the track actually enhances each individual note and chord. And I love how the ending seems to be slowly building up steam as the train leaves the station with your lover on board.

Side B

You Won't Break Me is a southern-rock take on the break up song. David's organ part that kicks off the song has a bit of a funeral feel to it and then the guitar comes in and it takes on a defiant feel that makes you realize you're not beat, at least not yet. I love Simon's guitar tone on this song. To me, that's how a Fender Stratocaster should sound. I have an ex-girlfriend who complained that I never wrote any songs about her. You're welcome.

I've read a lot of rock autobiographies – Clapton, Keith Richards, Gregg Allman and others. Heroin addiction is a common theme in many of them but addiction comes in many forms and, today, prescription drug abuse, usually of opiods, is a really serious problem. One afternoon a friend called to tell me one of our mutual friends was found dead. I had no idea he was in trouble. I went home and picked up my guitar to practice scales. Instead, I wrote pretty much all of what ended up being Enough in about half an hour. It just poured out of me. It's written through the eyes of the addict who knows that it would be so much easier for everyone if he just didn't exist.

There's only one cover on the album, Leaving Trunk by Sleepy John Estes. The most well-known version is Taj Mahal's with the brilliant Jesse Ed Davis on guitar. I love the song and I love Taj Mahal's version, which has a bit of a funky feel. I wanted to expand on that. Marc is a groovy, funky, dirty, soul bass player. In fact he plays with the Toronto-based Soul Motivators. It's his bass line combined with the breaks that really amp up the funk in our version.

One of my alleged friends told me that Finally Lost My Blues sounds like a drunkard playing slide guitar with a really tight blues band. Doing my best Neil Young impression I responded, That's my sound, man. You see, some songs are about getting the blues. Some songs are about having the blues. This particular song is about losing your blues. When the love of a fine woman makes you lay down your shootin' iron, you are definitely losing your blues.


CD label

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The Band

Produced by Jeff Connell, Inaam Haq, David de Launay and John Thibodeau.
Engineered and mastered by Inaam Haq at Cherry Beach Sound, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.