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Jeff Callaway Album By Landlord’s Request a Dynamic Diamond in the Rough - from

He’s had a lot of the material recorded for a while, but it’s been our misfortune that it hasn’t seen the light of CD or iTunes day yet. With his finally forthcoming album By Landlord’s Request, Jeff Callaway, known mainly as a trombonist/brass man, reveals more of the man behind the horns. The tracks follow a path you’re not likely to stroll on anyone else’s record.

You’ll hear a guitar-strummed, relaxed original song with Callaway taking his turn at the mic to bare his soul vocally, followed by a straight jazz instrumental number, followed by another singer/songwriter piece, followed by another jazz tune, and so on. The record opens with the artist standing his ground in a vacuous culture in the plaintive and poignant Plastic People, which he has floated for free download a while online. It’s been featured nationwide on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory as well as on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Grassroots with Bill Ellison.
Years of collaborating with local groups such as the Kudzu Kings have obviously left their mark on Callaway’s taste in his original songwriting, and on By Landlord’s Request he even commits to tape a cover of the Kings’ lament Bryan’s Song, a musician’s sizing up of his lot in the world. His longing lullaby ballad Shamaine pines for an unrequited love who may or may not even remember the lonely troubadour.

Jeff Callaway’s been trying to get you to hear this record for quite a while. How long? Important people have passed on from this mortal coil in the process. In the liner notes, Callaway points out that Barry Hannah originally was going to contribute some words about the artist, and the album includes what Callaway says is American legend Jim Dickinson’s final performance on Volume Two—a collection of songs by various artists and groups featuring Callaway’s horn work. Duff Durrough’s on those tracks, too.

“I guess what I’m saying is I’m glad I finally finished the thing before I’m forced to join my friends on their journey into the Great Beyond,” Callaway writes. “So rather than unduly jeopardize anyone still with us, I guess I’ll just run the risk and plunge ahead myself.”

So, by all means, when it comes out—which Callaway assures us is soon, on CD and iTunes—listen to the damn thing before any of the featured musicians on Volume Two take a powder. You’ll be glad you did, and you might just come to know Oxford’s preeminent horn dog a little bit better in the bargain.

Originally printed in Oxford Town #822, May 19, 2009

20 years later, Callaway’s trombone finally lands a solo disc,
Callaway’s guitar tries to find an audience

by Jesse Wright

Even if you don’t know Jeff Callaway’s name, you know his trombone. In the past two decades he has played with the Ole Miss Marching Band, the Kudzu Kings, the Neckbones and, recently, he played with John Hiatt on Hiatt’s “Master of Disaster” album (though John Hiatt doesn’t know Jeff Callaway’s name either; he is listed as Calloway in the credits).

Now the man behind the most ubiquitous trombone in Oxford is poised to release his first solo album, “By Landlord’s Request.” The eponymous landlord in question requested rent. Who knew rent’s inspiration could bear such fecund work; would that more bands were so inspired. If there is nothing else to be gained from this depression, at least we have Callaway’s two disc set.

The first disc in the set is mostly jazz with Callaway’s trombone front and center of the Mo’Tet (Jeff Colburn, Drums; Drew Dunnaway, Guitar; Slade Lewis, Bass; and Casey Lipe, Reed). Even in the jazz there are occasional flecks of pop, like the fourth track, Three Buds, which features an especially catchy guitar hook which is passed around by the rest of the band and woven into a larger experience. The album is all the more impressive because so much of it is improvised.

“The performances there are as improvised as it gets,” he said. “We didn’t talk about it, we didn’t rehearse. We just went in there and played.”

As a solo project one might expect Callaway to overtake the Mo’Tet and turn the jazz ensemble into something like a backup group, but it never happens. More than once an occasional sharp drum break serves as a tidy counterpoint to Callaway’s trombone and pulls the music back together. This seems to suit Callaway, who is keenly aware of his instrument’s presence.

“The trombone is like Tabasco Sauce,” he said. “A little bit is good but if you use too much it blows the effect.”

Nowhere is that delicate balance put more to the test than on his second disc. The second disc is a thank you to those who preorder (hint, hint) the album, so it won’t be available for much longer. Disc II of “By Landlord’s Request” serves as a sort of greatest hits of Jeff Callaway though it could also be an unofficial Rough Guide to the Oxford music scene. This is the CD with all that great music you’ve heard over the years.

The CD opens gangbusters with two tracks from The Kudzu Kings. Both tracks sound like the Kings are trying to shove about three or four different songs from different genres into three to four minutes. Of course there’s trombone in this sonic gumbo and it fits fine. The whole of the second disc is sort of like a Kudzu Kings song—in 45 minutes Callaway’s trombone visits a marching band, a bluegrass band, a punk band, a jazz band and everything in between … and it fits.

If the second disc has any problems it is its rawness. A couple of tracks—track eight in particular—suffer from poor recording quality so the drums end up slightly distorted and the trombone is not as strong as I suspect it was meant to sound. This is a shame because tracks eight and nine would be killer jazz tracks if they sounded a bit better. On the other hand the varying production quality lends the CD a certain live feel and a certain spontaneity which, depending in your mood, can be fun. Without a doubt the album is a testament to a man who can play a mean trombone in all weather conditions.

So it confuses people when Callaway tries to get people interested in his guitar work. “The surprise factor and the unknown factor is what I’m fighting right now,” he said. Suspicious fans and musicians will get to hear a bit of his guitar work on the first disc of “By Landlord’s Request.” While it’s the first time he’s gone public with his guitar, it is not the first time he’s played.

Callaway said he has been studying the guitar for over a decade. He said it’s taken him that long to get his guitar playing to be where he wants it. “Trying to get the guitar and the vocals up there has been a stretch,” he said. But now he’s ready to go live—and no one believes it.

“People are going to have to see it,” Callaway said. “Right now I ask people about playing bass on a track and they say, ‘No, I don’t play jazz.’” Callaway laughs, but he’s serious. And guitar is only the beginning of his eclectic variety of plans. He said he would love to play guitar on a project he calls “An Evening With Trey Parker” in Oxford and play songs from Team America and the theme from Orgasmo—a musical tribute to one of Callaway’s favorite satirists.

But the Trey Parker tribute and the second career on the six string will have to wait. For the time being Callaway is busy in the studio, still tweaking the first disc of “By Landlord’s Request,” trying to get it out the door in the next few weeks.

“I want to sell enough copies of this album to pay my rent and start making documentaries,” he said. Films are another interested of his. A quick peak at his site, and you will find he has many projects in the works. The landlord has made quite a number of requests.

Folks interested in the “By Landlord’s Request” double set still have a few weeks to preorder. Get both CDs now for $10 at

Also, if you have a band, find your hardest, most obscure piece and bet Callaway he can’t find a place for a trombone somewhere in the mix. Smart money’s on Callaway.

Jesse Wright - Oxford Town (May 14, 2009)

JC - The Local Voice (Mar 19, 2009)

Local Musician/The Local Voice

Originally Printed in The Daily Mississippian on Sept. 19, 2008
The O-Scene

by Alex McAdams

With the right strobes and dimmers, any band can look good, but the musical goods are necessary to solidify the breast-beating machismo of an all-male band. Let’s just say The Hemptones have got the goods.

With members of both Zoogma and the Kudzu Kings, the music – psychedelic/acid rock, Rastafarian-style reggae, a splash of big band, rolled up with a touch of funk – seems an unlikely combination, even for Oxford, but The Hemptones have made a reality out of the imagined love child of The Doors, Bob Marley and George Gershwin.

The typical electric and bass guitar, drum set, keyboards, trumpet and trombone (yes, a trumpet and trombone) were present Wednesday night at Two Stick, and this somewhat makeshift jam band blew me away.

Dave Woolworth, the same guy from the Kudzu Kings I interviewed last week, is also the bassist for The Hemptones, and the way this band came together is totally random.

Woolworth attended a Zoogma show during the summer, and the Zoogma guys approached him with a project.

“They told me, ‘If you ever want to do something with this psychedelic thing, we’re interested,’ and I automatically said, ‘Let’s do it!’” Woolworth said.

“Whatever project – well, most projects – I do is different. This is a cool one,” he said.
A keyboard, a drum set and a guitarist are not unusual for a band, but a trombone and a trumpet player will definitely make a passerby on the Square stop at the propped-open door and listen. I would know; I watched them.

When The Hemptones crashed into their first song, the entire contents of the restaurant clamored to the front of the facility. Strobes were used, colorful lights went off and the trippiest music (and trust me, I’ve heard some crazy stuff) I’ve ever heard came from the small Two Stick stage. But the trip didn’t outweigh musical ability as the composition and the unity of the members was apparent – they even swayed in unison during their moment of musical euphoria.

It was a spiritual experience, and even though my escort left early to get some sleep, I stayed longer, drinking beer and enjoying the experience.

During their performance of epic-length pieces, my note-taking abilities were interrupted when I swear I heard a hint of “Rhapsody in Blue” (hence the aforementioned Gershwin reference) intertwined with driving rock rhythms and a funky swag.

I could tell by looking out into the crowd that their audience was a faithful one. Woolworth confirmed my suspicions.

“I’m psyched about it, and people are psyched about it too. And if people are psyched ... well, you do the math,” he said.

“We’re at a starting point right now,” Woolworth said of the band, which began playing as an official group in June. “We’re at a point to where we can run with it.”

With the intrigue of a permanent trombone/trumpet player in the group, I had to know where the hell he came from. And where else? Oxford: A nice (a most random and unique) place to live.

Jeff Callaway graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor of music degree and continued his music education at Vandercook College, where he received a master’s in music education. Now he’s back in Oxford playing music and teaching music. His last endeavors were instructing the Quitman High School band camps from 2003-07 and the Ridgeland High School band camp in 2007.

Other members of The Hemptones include Matt Harris on drums and Justin Hastings on guitar. Wednesday, the guys had guest guitarist Tom Queyja.

With the groove and tight-knit chemistry, it’s difficult to believe The Hemptones have only been playing as a collaborative effort since June.

As I write this column, I am left with the image of Callaway immersed in a blue spotlight while ghostly lifecast portraits of blues artists eerily lined the walls of the restaurant.
While Callaway played the trombone that reminded me of the drones of an aboriginal didgeridoo, the band broke into a breakdown that even the loneliest of scene kids can hardcore 2-step too.

You don’t get much more diversity than that.

What The Musicians Are Saying...

"Jeff has 2 qualities that I believe are essential in a gigging musician...creativity and fearlessness. I have known Jeff primarily as a (jazz/blues) trombonist. The stage is a more interesting place with him on it so I'm anticipating his latest artistic endeavor will have a similar effect on cd and mp3 players."
RAPHAEL SEMMES - Bassist, Vocalist, Bandleader, JMA Musician of the Year (May 7, 2008)