All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Bailey's Bundles

3

Skip Heller: San Fernando Valley Blues and The Hollywood Blues Destroyers

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Fred "Skip" Heller. Now there is a rara avis. A musical omnivore as drawn to Glenn Gould as to Roger Miller, Heller's talent and dedication to music and its history deserves so much more than local notoriety in the Los Angeles and Philadelphia areas it enjoys. Then, if I were LA, I would not share him either...he is that special of a person and musician.

Heller's personal sound has matured and quickened over his most recent releases, reprised on his present compilation, San Fernando Valley Blues 2008—2012). What may be Heller's most stable approach manifests on the fully realized the Hollywood Blues Destroyers: Here in California. I would not be so presumptive or naïve to believe that Heller won't change directions again, but he has found a very comfortable place.

Skip Heller
San Fernando Valley Blues 2008-2012
Self Produced
2015

San Fernando Valley Blues 2008-2012 includes selections from The Long Way Home (Tallulah Records, 2009), Jim Cavender's A Cellarful of Noise (Startlingly Fresh, 2010), Foolish Me (Weatherbird, 2012) and Fakebook II -That's Entertainment. These releases represent Heller in formative mode as he approaches the releases of . His songwriting is becoming more refined and lyrically sophisticated as evidenced by "I Used to Love California" and "The Man I Used to Be." Heller's lyric subjects are West Coast and on the downward trajectory.

His sense of humor and affinity for the music of the 1920s and '30s is presented on the clever shuffle "Joe Turner Lane" and the inventive "Duke Ellington's Tears." "I Hate You" is a sharp bit of Country Western shuffle musically and lyrically. "To Hot to Sleep" and "San Fernando Blues" are conversational with the latter erring on the side of rock-a-billy by way of Bakersfield. Heller's guitar playing remains as tasteful and precise as we have come to expect. San Fernando Valley Blues 2008-2012 is a suitable introduction to Skip Heller as he solidifies his vocal and songwriting chops.

The Hollywood Blues Destroyers
Here in California
Weatherbird Records
2015

Skip Heller's Hollywood Blues Destroyers is the project that grew out of his superb Songs With Memories: Skip Heller And Friends Play Floyd Tillman (Weatherbird, 2013). Heller has always been the keeper of the flame when it comes to Americana and this recording was he most focused and cogent recording to date. Then Heller decided to take full control, inventing his new project and fixing his position as a smart and inventive composer with the release of The Hollywood Blues Destroyers: Singles Drinking Doubles (Self Produced, 2015). The year is not yet out and Heller provides us Here in California.

Here in California finds Heller's vocals nearly fully developed. Heller sings with a confidence only hinted at on his most recent recordings. The same can be said for his arranging capabilities, which have always been beyond question. With the Hollywood Blues Destroyers, Heller steers a "little big band" with happ care and grace. His songwriting contains in the same vein as Singles Drinking Doubles: sardonic songs about the grind ("Here in California") and self-effacing ballads ("If I Make it to Heaven" and "Waltz for Two Who Don't Dance." On the latter, vocalist Lisa Jenio shares a duet with Heller sounding like the Carter Family relocated West. Whether this is where Heller's journey deposits him for any length of time, it is a fine and happy place that is both tuneful and thought provoking.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part X Bailey's Bundles
Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part X
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 6, 2018
Read If You Can Only Have One Christmas Recording… Bailey's Bundles
If You Can Only Have One Christmas Recording…
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 3, 2018
Read Gregorian Chant – Melodies I & II Bailey's Bundles
Gregorian Chant – Melodies I & II
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 21, 2018
Read Bailey’s Bundle – Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part IX Bailey's Bundles
Bailey’s Bundle – Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 5, 2018
Read Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part VIII Bailey's Bundles
Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part VIII
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 29, 2018
Read Ten Men Bailey's Bundles
Ten Men
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 18, 2018
Read "At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight" Bailey's Bundles At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "Holiday 2017 II - Classical" Bailey's Bundles Holiday 2017 II - Classical
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Holiday 2017 I – Georg Frederic Handel’s "Messiah"" Bailey's Bundles Holiday 2017 I – Georg Frederic Handel’s...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 2, 2017
Read "Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part X" Bailey's Bundles Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part X
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 6, 2018
Read "Seven Women 2018 – Part IV" Bailey's Bundles Seven Women 2018 – Part IV
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 28, 2018
Read "Ten Men" Bailey's Bundles Ten Men
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 18, 2018