East Side Slim
Rogers – Treat Me Right
Blind Pig Records, 2008
Treat Me Right is the 1st release on Blind
Pig by singer (and on CD, occasional harp player)
Robin Rogers. I had been hearing good things about
Robin over the last year, but hadn’t had the
opportunity to hear much of her work until now. I’m
very impressed! I know we shouldn’t have to
compare one artist to another, but it can be an effective
way to describe how someone, or some group, “sounds”.
In Ms. Rogers’ case apply the following: her
voice reminds me of Angela Strehli, her song selection
reminds me of Janiva Magness, and her sass reminds
me of Lou Ann Barton. If you enjoy the music of any
of those women, you will definitely enjoy the music
on Treat Me Right by Robin Rogers and her band.
Here is some background on
Robin (with thanks to All Music Guide and Robin’s
own Website.) Robin was a runaway teen, attempting
to escape from a troubled home. She eventually landed
in reform school, being released from there at 15.
From that point she was on her own, wandering the
country, developing her musical skills, and developing
drug and alcohol addictions.
Around 1979 she arrived in
the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area, spending a decade
there. During this time she was managed to sign
a recording contract with a subsidiary label of
RCA and did some recording. Around 1989 she overcome
her substance addictions, and decided to relocate
to the Charlotte, NC, area. While there she met
and married Tony Rogers, with the two of them performing
as a duo through most of the 1990s.
In 2001 the Rogers’
released Robin’s first CD, titled Time for
Myself. From this point they worked with a full
band, and in 2004 the Rogers’ released Crazy,
Cryin’ Blues. This CD proved a turning point
for Robin’s band, as the title won the “Best
Self-Produced CD” award from the Blues Foundation/IBC
Challenge in 2005, and the band was a finalist of
2004’s International Blues Challenge. Robin
Rogers signed with Blind Pig Records in 2008, leading
to the release of the CD being reviewed here, Treat
Songs: (all songs written by Robin & Tony Rogers
unless otherwise noted)
Treat Me Right: (B.B. King, Sam Ling -
really just B.B. King, as Sam Ling, Joe Josea, etc…
were not actually co-writers, but were producers
and record executives “taking” some
of the action on publishing rights.) --A swinging
take on an old B.B. King tune. Not a bad choice
to lead the CD off with; it gives Robin a chance
to belt out the lyrics, showing us what she’s
got. The song also has some very nice horn charts.
Don’t Leave Poor Me: (Leroy Kirkland, Charles
Singleton) - More killer horn charts, some
tough guitar work, and a rumba rhythm to the verses…this
tune swings hard. This song is all good.
Ain’t No Use: (Rudy Stevenson) -
We’ve got a slow drag here after the two swinging
tracks that led off the CD. This one reminds me
of the countrified soul of Ray Charles or Leon Russell.
It’s all feel, baby, with a killer vocal and
a beautiful single-note guitar solo from Tony Rogers.
Oh, and the horns are still around, too!
Can You Hear Me Now: - This is the 1st
of the Rogers’ compositions on the CD. It’s
a nice soulful blues with a loping drum pattern.
Tony gets to dirty up his guitar work some on this
track, adding a little bite to his attack. You’ll
hear a sample of Robin’s harp playing as the
song fades out.
Color-Blind Angel: - This is a deep, mournful,
slow blues written in tribute to the life of Viola
Luizzo. She was a white civil rights worker from
Michigan who was murdered by the KKK in 1965. The
sound here goes back to the duo sound of the Rogers’,
as you’ll hear Robin singing and playing a
little harp and husband Tony soulfully picking his
dobro. This song won 2nd place in the blues category
of the 2007 International Songwriters Competition.
Promised Land: - This rollicking gospel/R&B
song picks the mood up back up, with Robin joyfully
singing of the joy of knowing she’s going
to make it into Heaven someday, reuniting with her
loved ones and being with the Lord. Amen, sister!
Nobody Stays: - This song rides along a
jazzy, Van Morrison-inspired groove. I suppose the
flute being the featured instrument in the tune
reminds me of Van’s more jazzy songs. You’ll
also hear nice organ work and more clean guitar
playing. Just about all the musicians get a little
solo space on this tune.
Drunkard’s Alley: - This is an up-tempo
piano-based blues number, warning us all as to what
can happen if you make too many visits to Drunkard’s
Alley – best not to go “down in the
alley”! Robin coarsen up her voice here, gaining
a toughness that fits the tune, and the Farfisa
organ add a fun, carnival-like feel (especially
when Robin laughs out loud during the start of the
Nobody’s Gonna Hurt You: (Eddie J. Cooley)
- We’ve got a mid-tempo blues tune
here, something like you can hear in Janiva Magness’
set list. It’s a little sassy, a little sexy,
and has very cool horns, organ and guitar work.
The band Robin has put together for this CD is incredible.
I also like the production work on this CD provided
by Jim Brock and Don Rice. Sonically, this CD sounds
Moan: - This is a mid-tempo R&B tune
with plenty of blues feeling and swing. The organ
is definitely the king here, and Robin infuses the
song with loads of expressive vocals. Tony Rogers
rips off a grungy solo in the middle of the track
helps to cement the bluesy feeling heard here.
Dark Love: - The set-ender, this is a slow-ish,
late-night mood-filled R&B tune. It’s
probably my favorite song on the CD. You’ve
got a bed of organ, clean guitar chording, and a
devastating, heartfelt vocal by Robin. The muted
trumpet solo near the middle of the song really
captures the feel of the tune. Nice work!
Treat Me Right is a great
“big” label debut by Robin Rogers, and
is a perfect length at just over 40 minutes long.
Forty minutes of great music – NO filler.
There’s hard electric blues, late-night blues,
R&B, jazzy numbers, slow drags, and more, and
Robin and the band make them all sound great. Robin
has an extremely expressive & soulful voice,
and the band is top-notch. Her harp playing, at
least on the CD, is solid and is used more for effect
than for lead work. Special kudos should be given
to the keyboard player on this CD, Mark Stallings.
If you enjoy B-3 organ and piano then you have one
more excuse to go out and buy this CD. Shoot, Mr.
Stallings even lays a little Farfisa organ on us.
Robin’s husband, Tony Rogers, is the band’s
guitarist as well as a co-writer with Robin, and
he shows that he knows his way around the less-is-more
world of blues guitar. Nice work from everyone involved
– great playing, great lyrics and great production.
Let’s give this one a 4.0 on the STLBluesometer.