Published Aug 12, 2015A buzz is developing around honky-tonk songsmith Ben Rogers, as evidenced by the fact he has an extensive UK tour lined up for October. The Bloodred Yonder is the follow-up to his self-produced 2013 debut, Lost Stories: Volume I, and it certainly ups the ante in terms of production. Rogers' older brother Matt (of the Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer fame) produces, and the talented backing band comprises steel guitarist Matt Kelly (City and Colour), bassist Erik Nielsen (Rich Hope), lead guitarist John Sponarski (Portage and Main) and drummer Leon Power (Frazey Ford).
The spotlight here is taken by Rogers' deep and expressive voice and colourful songs. He is an accomplished film and TV actor, and he is clearly playing the role of country music outlaw here, lyrically and musically. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but he does occasionally overreach; the accent he adopts on tracks like "Wanted," for example, with lines like "I'm wanted by the Po-lice and the DEA, is just a mite affected for a kid from BC. He's more convincing on the ballad "Goodbye Rosa Lee," the full-blooded and dynamic "River" (shades of Crazy Horse) and the Burritos-flavoured "Don't Buy Me Roses."
There's plenty of murder ballad imagery here, as on vigorous first cut "Wild Roses" ("I washed my hands in the river and the river ran red"), another definite highlight with nice interplay between the steel and resonant electric guitar. The closing song, "Darling Please" begins as a simple plea but then sags under the weight of an over-the-top sonic approach. Rogers is undoubtedly a real talent, but he'd do well to tone down the more florid touches next time out. (Tonic)