A Review of the Garnet Rogers CD
"Get A Witness"

"Get A Witness"
by Garnet Rogers

Snow Goose Songs
Valerie Enterprises

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/07
"Kevin and Maxine's Celtic & Folk Music Reviews"
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Something new, something old and something borrowed.

Such describes "Get A Witness," the latest release from Garnet Rogers. Recorded live over a three-day period in July of this year at The Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec, it's a mix of new offerings, previously recorded songs and those from the likes of Karen Savoca, Bruce Springsteen and the late Stan Rogers.

Recent events and headlines are mapped out in the initial songs. George Bush gets eviscerated in the rockin "Junior" while "Beyond This Wall" matter-of-factly paints a portrait of Canadian soldiers at war in Afghanistan -- but applicable to the military members of any nation in such a situation. "Junior" could alternately be titled "You Don't Speak For Me," a recurring snarling lyric. It consists of Bush's words and actions approrpiately mashed back into his face. "Beyond This Wall" hits home with a twist of a proverb, turning the usual phrase into "I'll fight to live another day."

In the title cut, "Get A Witness," Rogers recounts the best day and why, morning through night, of the subject in the song.

"Summer Lightning" is one of Roger's previous odes to his wife. Given a different instrumental introduction, this cut is a slower, different version, somewhat akin to what Dylan often does with his songs in concert -- re-inventing pace, rhythm and emphasis. Here's a lyric example of "Summer Lightning" with Rogers' writing at its most open and inventive:

"...For where I go
You go with me
Thought the miles keep us apart
Your kiss is on my lips and your face before me
And your gentle hand, always on my heart

We are brief as a summer lightning
We are swift as swallow's flight
We are sparks that spiral upward in the darkness in the night
We are frost upon a window
We won't pass this way again
In the end only love remains..."

Providing an evocative glimpse of a country music performer now out of place and time in "Empty Glass," Rogers understatedly yet magically takes the listener on the artist's last journey.

In this cut, he also excoriates the swapping of genuineness for image with:

"...There's no Hank, Merle or Johnny now
you can't hear them anymore
There's just redneck clowns and stupid hats
young girls dressed as whores..."

The guess is that this offering will be the favorite of most listeners -- it gets the vote here.

"Good and Faithful Servant" is another rocker led by electric guitar -- it's genesis the the funeral service for Coretta King.

Then begins the works of others with Karen Savoca's weepy "Bittersweet" followed by Springsteen's "Blood Brothers." Each appears a companion piece of the other. Both are tales of fateful acceptance and a carrying on despite losing out on any grace of enlightenment. "Blood Brothers" also brings to mind elements of an earlier Rogers song, "Frankie and Johnny."

Then it gets real interesting.as right at the conclusion of "Blood Brothers," "David's Solo" appears, flowing into "Night Drive" and then "Northwest Passage." Don't be alarmed as track 8 registers a length of 30:31 on the media player.

"Night Drive" is an exhilarating operatic-style homage to the memory of Garnet's late brother Stan, who perished in an airplane fire in 1983. The mix of muted and rollicking makes Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage" quite the fitting companion piece. The chorus itself succinctly yet brilliantly displays the imaginative songwriting talent of the elder Rogers:

"...Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea..."

All is concluded with "The Bay Boy," a guitar instrumental that provides the time and space to ponder what has just been experienced. A hidden track, be forewarned it does take some time before appearing.

Kudos to Garnet Rogers for both the thought behind this release -- the picking, choosing and connection of the songs -- and the music in its totality. Plus, a tip of the hat for the iconoclasm displayed by the length of a number of the cuts here: 7:25 for "Beyond This Wall," "Summer Lighting" coming in at 8:04, with "Empty Glass close behind at 8:10. "Night Drive" runs 11:10. Any discussion of anti-corporate music -- that for the audience -- requires the inclusion of Garnet Rogers.

Track List:

All songs by Garnet Rogers, except as noted.

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