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Robin Rogers - Back In The Fire Robin Rogers – Back In The Fire – Blind Pig, 2010
East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

Robin Rogers – Back In The Fire – Blind Pig, 2010

Robin Rogers – Back In The Fire – Blind Pig, 2010

With great sadness it must be said that this review can be considered my personal tribute to Robin Rogers, who passed from this World in December of 2010. While her death is certainly a loss to blues fans it can not compare to the loss felt by her husband, family and close friends. I think it's safe to say that Robin will be missed deeply by loved ones and friends the World over, as well as by music lovers everywhere.

For those of you not familiar with the music of Robin Rogers, it is somewhat similar in style to that of Janiva Magness, although Robin's music tends to be just a bit rougher around the edges, more bluesy to Janiva's R&B leanings (especially of late.) Robin's singing on this CD is definitely from deep in the blues well, even on the less bluesy numbers. There is a depth of emotion (exceptionally hard earned) to her vocals throughout the album that just can't be denied.

This album is Robin's 2nd Blind Pig release, following a couple of post-year-2000 under-the-radar releases - Time For Myself and Crazy Cryin' Blues. On this current CD, Back In The Fire, Robin sings and plays harp, husband Tony is on guitars (as he has been for Robin since the very early 1990s), Kerry Brooks supplies the bass work, Jim Brock hits the drums and percussion (and receives producer's credit for the CD), Mark Stallings plays piano and organ, Jon Thornton is on trumpet, Tim Gordon is on saxophones (and horn arrangements), and special guest Bob Margolin provides a guitar solo during the song "Need Your Love So Bad."

The Songs: (songs by Robin and Tony Rogers unless specified otherwise)

1. Baby Bye-Bye
--This very tough, emotion-packed mid-tempo hard blues number opens the CD in fine style. Robin sings her throat raw, and Tony lays down powerful, well-constructed solos.

2. Second Time Around
--With verses built around an up-tempo "Key to the Highway" riff, this tune shuffles along nicely and provides Robin the opportunity to display her skills on acoustically played harmonica. Even though Robin was a fantastic singer, she never put her harps down (thank goodness.)

3. You Don't Know
--This is a sultry, jazzy mid-tempo number which is built around an organ bed and interesting percussion work. Tony Rogers steps in with extremely tasteful solos and fills, helping to make this song one of the finest cuts on a CD full of choice cuts.

4. Need Your Love So Bad – (Little Willie John & John Mertis Jr.)
--It takes real talent to take on any song originally sung by Little Willie John, but Robin knocks this heart-wrenching love song right out of the park. Her voice captures the melancholy and longing inherent to the song, making it one of the finer slow blues recordings released in 2010. Additionally, Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin guests on the tune, gracing it with one of his typically 1st-class solo turns.

5. The Plan
--This one is interesting, and is a departure of sorts from the songs heard so far. It possesses a low key, swampy, back-porch vibe, and features more of Robin's harp work. Although the lyrics are uplifting and very positive, the melody is a bit on the darker side; a hint as to what had been occurring in Robin's life health-wise perhaps? Finally achieving some of the things (comfort, recording success, etc…) sought after for so long, only to be dogged by extremely serious health issues…

6. I Know I Done Wrong
--This cut is a lot of fun. It rides an up-tempo second-line rhythm, great horn charts and a downright sassy vocal performance.

7. Ocean Of Tears – (Sidney Wyche, Theodore McRae)
--A classic tune, this arrangement features beautiful percussion work, including Latin-inspired hand percussion, and ringing guitar notes from Tony Rogers. And of course, Robin sings with beauty and soul.

8. Don't Walk Away Run – (Chuck Glass)
--This ballad bespeaks a harrowing tale of abuse and neglect in a woman's life brought about by the man in her life, who is unfortunately a substance abuser. Musically, the star of the show is the organ work of Mark Stallings, as the tones of the organ convey the emotional toll of the situation.

9. Hittin' On Nothin' – (Naomi Neville, aka Allen Toussaint)
--The tempo is increased on this clever double-entendre tune, one possessing a distinct NOLA feel (the tune was written by Allen Toussaint after all.) According to the song's lyrics, "you're not hittin' on nothin' unless you've got somethin' for me." Hmm…there must some sort of barter system at work here, don't you think? The moral of this story seems to be that if mama is happy, there is a much better chance that daddy will be happy, too.
--Songwriter note: Naomi Neville was a pseudonym commonly used by Allen Toussaint during the 1950s and 1960s. It was his mother's maiden name, and she was unrelated to the Neville Brothers clan. A quick check of the All Music Guide website yields more than 80 songs as being written by Naomi Neville.

10. Yesterday's Blues
--This is pure blues, old-school, deep as a well, stripped down to the bare essentials. Robin's vocal treatment of the track is world-weary and knowing, acknowledging the pain that we all experience in our lives from time to time. Blues is truth, and this song speak nothing but.

11. What Are We Worth
--This feel-good blues-rocker closes out the CD on an up-tempo note, draped in a spirit of affirmation and love. If you want to experience warmth and love in your life, you have to open yourself up and give the same, as well as possessing an understanding of your own self-worth. Positive messages here from a woman who lived through some very dark, desperate times earlier in her life.

The Verdict:

The release of this CD, Back In The Fire, has unfortunately taken on much greater significance with the passing of Robin Rogers in December 2010. Robin's health had already begun to suffer when she recorded this CD, but you would never know it from the music contained herein. This truly is a phenomenal album, and it will serve as a wonderful tribute to the music of Mrs. Rogers and her band. Unfortunately it will also serve as a tantalizing reminder of just how great her music might have become, as each of her past three CD releases (including this one) has built upon the previous release, each becoming greater than the one before. As fans of the blues, let's choose to dwell upon, remember and enjoy the remarkable talent of Robin through her recorded music. On that note, it's time to rate this CD. East Side Slim is assigning an STLBluesometer rating of 4.50 to "Back In The Fire" from Robin Rogers. This is one of those albums about which I can honestly say I enjoy more every single time I hear it.

For more information concerning Robin Rogers, see the following websites:

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"

Publishers note - "The loss of Robin left a huge void in the Blues world, and even more among the ones who loved her. Although it may sound cliche, having known a similar loss I can testify that music really is a healer. In her music, Robin has left a legacy, and she'll always be near us. Pick up a Robin Rogers CD, and celebrate her often."

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