When Garland Jeffreys broke onto the New York music scene in the early 1970s — the same scene that spawned Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and (via New Jersey) Bruce Springsteen — his songs were a little too close to the reality of the times. Music was supposed to be an escape, not something to remind us of the struggles people endured. Jefferys then still tackles the politics of race, ignorance, and hardship, but also the joy in the world around him, through a compelling blend of rock 'n' roll interspersed with reggae, blues, Latin, and soul. In 1973, "Wild in the Streets" chronicled both joyous and turbulent life in the Big Apple. "Spanish Town" came in 1977; "R.O.C.K." in 1980, with "Don't Call Me Buckwheat" in 1992. Presently, it's "Coney Island Winter" — the lead track of Jeffreys' first album in 13 years, The King of In Between — continuing the gritty streetwise feel and intelligent lyrics that have always given Jeffreys' music its edge and determination. "It only reflects my past as a look back from a moment," he says from his New York home. "It's really about the present and the circumstances of people's lives today. I want to paint that picture." Just like always.