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Back In the Fire

Robin Rogers

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Album Review

The follow-up to Robin Rogers' successful 2008 Blind Pig debut is another strong contemporary blues album with roots in noir jazz, torch, gospel, and R&B. Producer Jim Brock keeps the sound more earthy and raw this time around, which suits the singer's husky vocals better than the slightly slicker approach of the previous release. Sporadic horns pump up the volume and bolster the arrangements, but Rogers is at her best on jazz-tinged swampy numbers such as the throbbing "You Don't Know," a particularly edgy reply to those who judge people (perhaps her) without walking in their shoes. She wails and growls on a version of Little Willie John's "Need Your Love so Bad" bolstered by subtle horns, husband Tony's sweet guitar fills, and guest Bob Margolin's steamy solo. Rogers' powerful pipes seem to have been influenced by Irma Thomas, so diving into the New Orleans Soul Queen's sassy "Hittin' on Nothin'" is a logical path. But the part of the song that breaks down to just pounding percussion and voice shows that the younger vocalist isn't afraid to heighten the drama without losing the original's sass. Rogers is also a better-than-average harp player, a somewhat unusual talent for female blues vocalists, and she displays her abilities multiple times on this disc; perhaps best on the stripped-down slow tempo of "Yesterday's Blues" that also features Tony's dark Mississippi guitar shadings. He pulls out slide on the gospel-tinged closer "What We Are Worth" that includes a 30-voice choir singing the title chorus. While the combined voices are mixed too low and the lyrics are somewhat preachy, it's these kinds of quirks that make Rogers more than just another tough-as-leather, throaty female blues belter. She gives Big Maybelle a whirl on "Ocean of Tears," taking the song to a churchy arrangement pushed by Tony's feisty solo. Perhaps best, though, is the dramatic original "Don't Walk Away Run," a topical treatise about spousal abuse. Here the singer urges her girlfriend to take the titular action against an urging, somber beat and her own wailing harmonica. It's a perfect example of how contemporary blues can expand beyond the typical lost-and-found love lyrics into more serious and substantial subject matter without sacrificing the rootsy intensity that lies at the heart of the music.

Biography

Born: 1955

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '00s

Guitarist, singer, and harmonica ace Robin Rogers' life was full of hard knocks and sad turns, along with a few delightful coincidences, and she earned the right to sing the blues the tough, old-fashioned way, but sadly, she lived for only a short time after gaining her widest recognition as a solo artist. As a runaway teen in the late '60s she scratched out an existence however she could, sometimes sleeping in parks and abandoned cars as she bummed around the country to places like Richmond, Virginia;...
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Back In the Fire, Robin Rogers
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