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Robin Rogers - Back in the Fire
11 tracks; 47:28 minutes; Library Quality
Styles: Varieties of Contemporary Blues
If you do not have any Robin Rogers’s CDs in your home library, get this one immediately. And, if you have all of her releases, then you’ll definitely want this one, too. Pardon me for gushing like a school-girl, but this CD is fantastic. It starts out strong and just gets better from there!
How do “you” rate and judge an album? One valid method is: how many listens did it take until one liked it? My top rated CDs are the ones I enjoyed and related to with just one listen.
Loved-it-upon-my-first-listen makes Robin Rogers’s fourth album (second on Blind Pig) my pick for a guaranteed winner and best value for the dollar. One other measure cemented “Back in the Fire’s” top position: my wife also immediately liked it upon first listen as we were on a road trip – and she is fussy! Her comment, “This CD could be Album of the Year.”
Guitarist, singer, and harmonica maven Robin Rogers is an accomplished veteran of the music scene. Her life story (found in her bio on her website) reads like an unbelievable, exploitative Blues novel. If you read it as a novel, you might criticize it for being unrealistically over the top. Musically, the past fifteen years have seen her strongest writing and creating with musical partner and husband, guitarist Tony Rogers, in North Carolina.
Well planned variety reigns across the eleven songs on the CD consisting of eight Robin/Tony originals and three covers. Robin’s wonderful vocals are purely Robin but sometimes reminiscent of Reba Russell and other times Ana Popovic. With Jim Brock, a cohort over the past ten years, producing and adding drums and percussion, the overall instrumentation, and especially the meld, is superb.
Robin’s harp work is just killer - the most she has ever recorded, and Tony’s guitar work is perfectly in the mix whether playing lead or rhythm. He is not the main focus as this is not a guitar hero album. Mark Stallings on piano and organ is the butter on the rhythm bread laid down by Kerry Brooks on bass and Brock’s drumming. Horns are found on some tracks courtesy of Tim Gordon’s arrangements and saxophones and Jon Thornton on trumpet. The Rocking, inspirational final track, “What We Are Worth,” features a thirty voice backup choir directed by David Tang and some of Tony’s most harmonic slide guitar.
Little Willie John’s “(I) Need Your Love So Bad,” written with his brother Mertis, features a tasty, single note picked solo courtesy of Bob Margolin. “Ocean of Tears,” popularized by Big Maybelle, is radio ready with its Latin beat and Robin singing like she is going down for the third time.
“Don’t Walk Away Run,” written by Chuck Glass, opens with beautiful harmonica-over-organ belying the lyrics to come about necessarily leaving an abusive, alcoholic partner. The presentation’s relevancy is perfectly punctuated by Tony’s anguished mid-song guitar solo.
For a song catchy as the flu, check “Hittin’ on Nothin.’” Robin belts out, “All I get is talk, talk, talk! Hit the road Jack - walk, walk, walk. You ain’t hittin’ on nothin’ unless you got something for me. ...You promised me a mink coat for my birthday, and I ain’t seen mink, rat, or rabbit – make your exit, babe!”
Thank you Robin, Tony, and Jim; this CD will thrill every time it comes off my library shelf!
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.
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