Ted Hefko & The Thousandaires

Although a sizable chunk of the album was recorded in Austin, Texas, Egyptland’s spiritual home is in New Orleans, soaking up the unique musical influences there. Saxophonist/guitarist and singer-songwriter Ted Hefko, currently residing in New York, at times feels exiled from the musical paradise of New Orleans, comparing it to the Egypt of ancient times, and the nostalgia and love for that distinctive Crescent City sound permeates the largely jazz- and folk-based album.

“The Roofer” opens Egyptland and sounds as if it had been pulled from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s singer-songwriter-era songbook. In a Van Morrison-esque setting, Hefko reflects on the displaced Louisianans of Hurricane Betsy, vocalizing in a rather upbeat tone. The electric guitar, electric bass and drums complement his delivery, and the bright saxophone solo seems to indicate that there’s hope and happiness at the end of the turbulence.

The title track encapsulates the record. With the folk-like backing, Hefko seems to evoke the ambiance of ancient Egypt while keeping true to New Orleans’ heterogeneous musical history. There is more meat to the variety of instrumentation here (flute, classical guitar, synth cello, guitar and clarinet), but the refrain of “I don’t wanna die in Egyptland” seems to be a little out of element with the instrumentation, and the almost somber tone may be a little too understated for some ears. But that’s not to say that the message contained therein is of the soft kind.

“Wet Wool In The Rain” is a rhythmic, Latin-flavored side and continues the New Orleans nostalgic theme: “I’m just an aimless wanderer/Just tryin’ to figure out where to go/But my thoughts are back with you.” “Twenty Three Dollars And Twenty Three Cents” is swathed in a sincere blues hue, and the mid-tempo instrumental “The Short Man’s Complex” is heavily engulfed in jazz colors. Some nice Latin-inflected drum work can be found on the breezy jazz of “Bad Kids” and the album closer “Big Shoes.” both competent lyric-less pieces.

Placing disparate but complementary musical sounds side by side with a wide range of storytelling, Ted Hefko & The Thousandaires convincingly turn out a fine tribute to the Crescent City in Egyptland. Hefko particularly demonstrates that musical vibrancy and eclecticism can live on in memory and soul and that we can recreate those feelings by expressing it to others.

by Jeff Boyce