This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Bless the singer/songwriters for their willingness to invite listeners into their lives. In this case, doubly bless Garnet Rogers. His closing song on this release, the title cut "Firefly," is a musical valentine to his wife, Gail. But it is one thing to simply say 'I love you' to your partner. Authoring a song such as this places the depth of their connection in a remarkably different dimension.
The song "Firefly' finds him touring on California's west coast. Holding a photo of his wife when she was a young girl, he imagines the carefree and boundless joy in her life at that age. Reflecting on her entry into his life, he sings:
"...And so it was some twenty years agoHe concludes with:
As winter turned to spring
That child grown to a woman now
Stood gazing at a ring
Her golden hair fell forward
As she held it to her breast
She changed his life forever
As she quietly said yes..."
"...They will have no child to call their ownThis is a release about connections. Unity, sometimes strong, sometimes thin, sometimes broken, with kin, friends, strangers and even the land, is the dominant theme.
But to him it's all the same
He will love the woman that she is
And the child that she remains..."
In this vein, Rogers pays tribute to fellow musican Greg Brown and his move out to the Iowa countryside in the opening cut "Better Days."
"Underpass"follows, detailing the emotional and physical demise of a homeless man:
"...Hopeless faces, pinched and greyThe recurring refrain "cold the wind and rain" plunks the listener right down in the midst of the dire bleakness, suffering alongside the afflicted individual.
cold the wind and rain
Saying 'the meek shall inherit what is tossed away'
Slow down mister, would you please?
Give a boy a ride
I'm burning up with shame and need
I've nowhere left to hide..."
"Redwing" also is pointed towards Rogers' wife Gail, as he sings:
"...What a gift of sight you hadA couple's long-desired and eventual consummation in "The Girl From The Hiring Fair" contrasts heartily with the pair in the bawdy "Where'd You Get That Little Dress," a cut wonderfully embellished by Rogers in his concerts. Backed by rhythmic drum and electric guitar, Rogers lambastes the counterfeit reality of most models' figures and slams designer clothing while extolling the virtues of a simple summer cotton dress and hat:
To see into my heart
You did not flinch or turn from me
Though you saw me from the start..."
"..I love the way it frames your face and sparkles up your eyesEnumerating the various recreational options available, he finishes with:
And the dress just does one hell of a job of clinging to your thighs
I had to take a second look, a third look after that
Where'd you get that little dress?
Where'd you get that hat?..."
"...My vote is we hit the sheetsThe subtle "Blue Smoke" presents the crumbling life of a farmer. Unable to get a loan and facing foreclosure, the farmer packs up and vacates the land but not without first leaving a farewell mark.
We could stay there for a week
We could huddle under cover, baby
Play some hide and seek..."
An engaging surprise is the melancholy "Lady Of Spain," a bank-robbery-gone-awry ballad with nary an accordion anywhere in its 5-plus minutes duration. It's plaintive chorus:
"...We were five this morningDreams makes wishes come true in "The Painted Pony." Clocking in at just short of ten minutes, this traditional English-type tale is wonderfully transported to the American prairie by Rogers.
two before long
none of us had ever thought our luck could go so wrong
I miss those horses, I wish I had them now
I'd raise my brother up on one
And take him back to town..."
"Nightfall/Who Could Have Known"opens with a dreamy, symphony-sounding instrumental, followed by a confessional surrender to the miracle of change, transformation and re-emergence.
It would bedevil King Solomon to determine which is better--Rogers' lyrics, music or vocals? For there is exceptional material here, appealing instrumental backing and that powerful but emotional delivery. Labeling someone as "the top" or "the best" usually is defeating because the brilliance of the artist gets lost in an argumentative quagmire. Let's simply say Garnet Rogers will enrich your life and who couldn't use more of that right about now?
Rogers on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tenor guitar, baritone guitar, slide guitar, violin, viola, flute, cello, mandocello and glockenspiel, is backed by Ian Bell on accordion; Pat O'Gorman on uillean pipes; David Woodhead on bass and standup bass; Corey Thompson on drums; Mike Bonnell on organ; David Travers-Smith on trumpet; and Randal Hill on mandolin.
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