Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers gets there with folk strings style

From CD cover

From CD cover

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, “Almost There”
Label: Words and Music

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers starts this dozen-song collection off with “Eight Days in January,” an interesting story in which the Syracuse singer, songwriter and acoustic strings player enlists the help of Rani Arbo on fiddle and harmony vocals.

I thought I was off on a trip to bluegrass country. And I was ready for a nice journey, an introspective kick along the path, a serious scuffle into the sounds of that genre. From the decade plus I’ve known Rodgers and followed his work as the host of the Words and Music Showcase, I know he was able. I knew as founding editor for “Acoustic Guitar” magazine and author of “Rock Troubador” and contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered” he’d probably be willing, too.

But then as my CD traveled into “The Wrong Way Home” and “Closer” and “Don’t Think That I Can Say Goodbye” and the title cut, “Almost There,” my picture became more clear.

No, this was a more encompassing folk music album, with the versatile Rodgers on his acoustic guitar and Strumstick and tenor banjo calling upon Central New York friends and fellow musicians Wendy Ramsay and Josh Dekaney and John Dancks for a wider array of sounds for worlds he created with his writing.

And these dozen songs, paced to mark his storytelling ways, were very, very good. Ramsay helped him write “Almost There,” and also sings backup and plays flute, clarinet, accordion and glockenspiel. Dekaney sits behind the percussion kit, does some backup vocal work and plays chimes. Dancks plays upright bass. Jason Fridley adds saxophone.

It’s lush and it’s lively and it’s lovely. No wonder Rodgers is a winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

Here’s the link to Jeffery Pepper Rodgers’ website.

From CD Cover

From CD Cover

Laurie Dapice, “Parting the Veil”

Utica jazz singer Laurie Dapice has the voice to put her own swing on some classic work.

On her 10-song album, Dapice lets it all fly.

The liner notes on the album says so much.

“Crawling through the layers of unconsiousness and pain to get to ‘the awakening.’ The fruit of my awakening is realizing my dream and this album. I share this albun with you in hopes of creating a glimpse of light for you.”

And she does, from the first cut, Cole Porter’s glorious “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” to the triumphant “Feeling Good” from the musical “Roar of the Grease Paint — Smell of the Crowd” to her smoky original “Goodbye Summer” to the soaring spirtual closer “Motherless Child,” Dapice puts all of her heart and soul into her jazz voice.

Everybody’s ears win.

Here’s the link to Dapice’s website.

Joe Bonamassa, “Different Shades of Blue”
Label: J&R Adventures

From CD Cover

From CD Cover

Every album he puts out, it seems as if Joe Bonamassa gets further and further away from the guy who grew up just outside of Utica.

Now when his publicist sends out the package with his latest CD, the Jensen Communications-written packet is headlined “Guitar superstar writes all-new record with Nashville greats.”

Which is as it should be.

In his 30s, Joe Bonamassa is a great blues guitarist. He’s a good singer, too. The world has taken notice. Sure, way back when he was a kid out of New York Mills whose parents were thrilled when B.B. King invited their pre-teen on stage to trade licks way before his time … Smokin’ Joe became his nickname. Bloodline with the sons of Miles Davis and Berry Oakley and Robbie Kreiger became his band … But that was then. A few years ago, coming through Syracuse for a show at the Landmark Theatre, Joe Bonamassa invited me up on his tour bus for a serious interview, and then into the theater to watch him scorch the earth during soundcheck from the front row. Yeah, a very long way since then.

And now we have “Different Shades of Blue.”

It’s a studio album to be hugged, and hard.

With songs written with Jonathan Cain of Journey and James House, who wrote for Diamond Rio and Martina McBride, and Jerry Flowers, who wrote for Keith Urban, well, Bonamassa has turned in some very sharp stuff here.

“Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” lets him play, and “Oh Beautiful!” lets him be more playful, and “Love Ain’t a Love Song” lets you know he isn’t above fooling around.

“Never Give All Your Heart” is a trip to the honky tonk, and “Trouble Town” takes you to the horn section.

It’s all good, and it’s all grown up.

Here’s the link to Joe Bonamassa’s website.

Is your musical preference more folk, jazz or biues?

33 thoughts on “Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers gets there with folk strings style

  1. Joe Bonamassa rules and rocks! we saw him 2 years ago, here in Toulouse, France with the famous ZZ-TOPS… 🙂 merry end of December and an excellent 2015! cheers, Mélanie
    * * *
    P.S. your name is Polish… right?! 🙂


    • I’m glad you got the chance to see Joe Bonamassa with ZZ Top at home in France, Melanie. He’s such a pro. Happy end of December and Happy New Year to you, too. Glad to see you dropping by here. And yes, my name is Polish. You are sharp. 🙂


  2. these all sound really good to me mark, and i guess i’m an ‘americana’ type – avett brothers my fav, but also sting and old wes montgomery jazz- so don’t know my category.


  3. I guess I’m Bluegrass to the gills Mark, right down to the pickin’ and the grinnin’, foot stompin’ fun lovin’ old time slap bass. And then I can come home, get all purtied up in my best bib and tucker, and head out to the philharmonic’s rendition of Beethoven, and I’m not talking “Roll Over”, either. I like almost all music, except for some things that grate on a nerve for some reason and just keep on picking on that nerve ending. But the kind I used to play? Ha! Folk rock, soft rock, Skynard.


  4. James House is an amazing singer. Wrote and recorded one of my all time favorite songs, This Is Me Missing You. Jerry Flowers is one of my numerous crushes. Toured in The Ranch with Keith and now tours with him. Love those guys, excellent post.


  5. I prefer Blues Mark. You are surely well versed in the new music. It’s a pleasure to read. Have a great Christmas Mark, both you and Karen and your family (including Ellie B). May the Little Bitty be steeped in the season.


  6. I love your wide range of musical interests. As I read some of your reviews, it becomes quite evident that I’m a musical baby! Country, rap and (shhhh), eighties. I do enjoy blues and jazz…A LOT, but I don’t ever proactively seek them out to put on my playlists. Perhaps expansion of my musical taste would be a worthwhile (and fun) resolution for 2015.
    Love your stuff, Mark! Sorry that I’ve been a bit absent in my reading.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!


    • I took on a musical mountain when I became the music writer and critic for the big daily in 1991, and my tastes expanded greatly from rock and southern rock and the radio-ready stuff I loved in high school thereafter, Michelle. And the delight of so many styles has stuck with me, thankfully. I think your musical awareness resolution for 2015 might be the most enjoyable, ever!

      I’m glad to see you back, my friend. I read your guest post this week. You’ve been dealing with so much sadness. Also, I saw the post where you went to that warm weather vacation with your best friends, too!! That looked like a blast, Michelle. Merry Christmas Eve!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup! I’m totally gonna expand my musical horizons. I see how well-rounded and creative you are–I want some of that!
        Thank you for reading my stuff. Another resolution for 2015? To get my writing in order and post in some sort of consistent fashion. Perhaps I’ll play a little jazz in the background as I contemplate what that looks like!


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