The route taken by Jeff Golub in making Train Keeps A Rolling is unlike that followed by any other artist. Just as his previous record, Three Kings, was released, Golub suffered the collapse of one of his optic nerves, which caused loss of sight in that eye. The condition doesn’t typically affect the sight in the sufferer’s other eye, but in a very rare occurrence, Golub’s other optic nerve similarly collapsed, leaving him sightless. Then, a very unfortunate series of events was capped in September of 2012, when he fell onto subway tracks in New York City. He was briefly dragged along the tracks as bystanders and his guide dog, Luke, tried to help, and fortunately, wasn’t seriously injured.
The adversity, as one might expect, forced a pause in his career. But there was never a doubt in Golub’s mind about what he would do. “Guitar and music are more than my love, they’re my livelihood,” he said. “So, I needed to adjust, practically overnight.” And he did so remarkably, cancelling only one gig.
Getting back on the horse was important to the veteran, whose early career was spent as a side man who worked with Billy Squier, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Peter Wolf, and numerous others. And since the 1990s, he has become a staple of smooth-jazz radio, injecting some sorely needed soul into the format, especially through his label, Avenue Blue records.
A major factor in helping him get back into playing was luthier Roger Sadowsky, who went out of his way to help Golub adapt.
“Roger has been great about putting braille dots on my guitars, and it really makes a difference. I didn’t look at my guitar much when I could see – once in a while to get my bearings. Guitarists may not think they look that often, but most would be surprised if they had to adjust to how much they do look!” And, a musical positive has emerged. “I hear more now. I hear differently, more authentically, which I think was inevitable.” Before it happened, though, Golub recalled a chat with keyboardist Henry Butler, who has been blind since infancy and told Golub his hearing may become more developed. Butler told him it wouldn’t an overnight thing, but Golub noticed the improvement.
The new record is a mix of rock, soul, R&B, and jazz that features veteran British keyboardist Brian Auger.
“Bud Harner suggested him when we were looking for a B-3 player. We rehearsed the day before we went into the studio, then went in for three days and cut the record.” The tracks include older Auger songs from his days in the band Oblivion Express, “Happiness is Just Around the Bend” and “Whenever You’re Ready,” and some inspired covers including the Police’s “Walking on the Moon,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman,” Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live.” and Ace’s “How Long.”
“Part of what Bud does as a co-producer is come up with covers. It, of course, has to go by me, and I think every artist co-produces his CD whether he gets credit or not.” Also helping were friends like David Pack, Christopher Cross, and Auger’s Oblivion Express bandmate, Alex Ligertwood. Golub says it was easy to play music with Auger, especially given that he was familiar with his previous work. “When I was 15 years old, I picked up a copy of Closer to It by the Oblivion Express and it changed my life.”
As with much of his music the past 20 years, Golub says the groove is the main thing, “The vibe of the record is soul-jazz. It has a lot of Latin grooves – a lot of grooves, period. My last couple have been blues records, but I’m going back to what I did before.”
Golub’s main guitar is his red ’65 Fender Strat with a swapped bridge pickup. “I put a Seymour Duncan Full Shred Humbucker in it, which is the closest thing I’ve found to a PAF.” He also uses a ’59 Gibson ES-345 and an Epiphone Sheraton from the mid ’90s. When recording, he uses Fuchs amplifiers and a Mesa Boogie Tremoverb, with an overdrive pedal as the only effect.
The album cover shows Golub and his dog, Luke, perched near railroad tracks, which he says references what could have been a fatal accident.
“I came out of it with a couple of scrapes. The emergency medical technician who gave me a lift to the hospital said, ‘We don’t pull people off the subway. You obviously have some unfinished business down here’.”
This article originally appeared in VG January 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.