Roy Rogers – Split Decision
This release -- Roy's first studio recording with his band, The Delta Rhythm Kings, in seven years -- marks his reunion with Blind Pig, the label that issued Rogers' highly regarded early recordings in the late 1980's. Since then he's gone on to worldwide acclaim as one of the best slide guitar players around, garnered multiple Grammy nominations for his work as a producer for John Lee Hooker and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and received numerous accolades for songwriting and his work on movie soundtracks and television.
"I really wanted Split Decision to have an edge to it soundwise," says Rogers. "My influences are from all over the map - all kinds of roots music, to jazz, and even other music from around the world. You can certainly hear many of those influences on the recording. I love combining different elements on a recording, but ultimately it is about 'the feel' of a total record which represents that moment in time captured. I hope that shines through in a positive way for people. Thanks for listening."
1. Calm Before the Storm - 3:28 2. Patron Saint of Pain - 4:45 3. Little Queen Bee - 3:19 4. River of Tears - 4:01 5. Bitter Rain - 4:30 6. Your Sweet Embrace - 2:39 7. Someone Like You - 3:29 8. Rite of Passage - 4:14 9. Requiem for a Heavyweight - 4:00 10. I Would Undo Anything - 4:32 11. Holy Ghost Moan - 3:55 12. Walkin' the Levee - 2:31
Roy Rogers (vocals, guitars, percussion, piano on 4) , Steve Ehrman (bass) , Billy Lewis (drums, percussion) , Philip Aaberg (piano, keyboards) , George Brooks (alto & tenor saxophones) , Ottmar Liebert (guitar on 6) , Sam Rogers (vocal bass, berimbau, percussion)
1. AllMusic - Michael G. Nastos
Blues man Roy Rogers released breakthrough recordings Slidewinder and Blues on the Range in his early days for the Blind Pig label, and returns to their stable of artists with his first studio date in seven years, his latest since 2004, and his twelfth album overall. Like any evolving artist, Rogers has taken into consideration diversifying his sound while not adopting the trendiness that has crept into more commercialized blues. It seems he's taken cues from the great Charlie Musselwhite in modernizing his music with voodoo economics, teaming up with the Delta Rhythm Kings, European contemporary keyboardist Philip Aaberg, and multi-faceted saxophonist George Brooks. The songwriting of Rogers is more observant than conciliatory, scolding and at times brow beating, putting shame to no-gooders while offering a helping hand and wise advice, but not a free pass. His slide guitar sports a finely honed edge, more attuned to overheated and sweat dripping environs than the cooler temperature of the Northern California bay area where this was recorded. Rogers does favor beats over surreality, as "Patron Saint of Pain" is straight out of the bag of Elmore James, a choogling blues similar to "Take Out Some Insurance." The shuffling "Requiem for a Heavyweight" features his "do anything for you" slide guitar, and the rockin' good time "Holy Ghost Man" is a liberated, epiphany blues buoyed by Aaberg's organ accents. In the Southern swamp boogie tradition, "Calm Before the Storm" is a blues of conceit and being taken for granted. the spookier, cerebral elements of Musselwhite come to play on the post-Hurricane Katrina storyboard song "Bitter Rain," and the slow "I Would Undo Anything" features the shimmering slide guitar of Rogers. There are three instrumentals as well; the short and heartfelt "Your Sweet Embrace" with new age guitarist Ottmar Liebert, the cool, jazzy funky strutting "Rite of Passage" featuring Brooks up front, and "Walkin' the Levee" with blues berimbau from Sam Rogers in a walkin' and stompin' framework. All of these original tunes were either completely written or co-written by Rogers, admirable considering the trend to cover classics of the masters, or tacking on overt commercialized rhythm & blues dance beats. He's clearly got his own style, difficult to retain while avoiding a sell-out in contemporary times. If you are still not hip to the value of Roy Rogers, get aboard the train via this fine, somewhat overdue effort that should reestablish his estimable street cred.
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