Roger Connelly – Lifetime of the Blues | Album Review

Roger Connelly – Lifetime of the Blues

Lyin’ Dog Records

11 songs – 50 minutes

A Chicago native who doubles on guitar and harmonica, blues-rocker Roger Connelly has traveled the world making music since the ‘90s, and returns to the studio under his own name for the first time in 20 years for this set of originals, all delivered from a unique point of view.

Now based in Nashville, where he most recently worked four nights a week as a solo act at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel for the better part of three years prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. In the early 2000s, he was a member of Maxwell Street legend Jimmie Lee Robinson’s last touring band, a unit that had Bob Stroger on bass.

Shortly thereafter, Connelly uprooted himself for Catalina Island in California, where he spent 12 years, dividing his time between his own group, the Blues Merchants, and as a member of Welshman Spencer Davis’ Catalina Island All-Stars, contributing two songs to an eponymous album the group released in 2012. His tunes have appeared in two major films, including Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back by Midnight.”

The third release in Roger’s career as a bandleader and the first since 2001’s Reason to Cry, this one was primarily recorded at South Light Sound in Music City with additional tracks laid down in Glendale and Burbank, Calif. Connelly’s backed by keyboard player Dave Siebels, sax player Al Rappoport and a rhythm section composed of drummer Dave Criger and either Anthony Hood or Randy Landis on bass.

A stripped down guitar run opens before the band enters for the medium-paced shuffle, “Epitaph,” on which Connelly wonders who’s going to carry him to his grave. The tempo kicks up for the interesting “I’m Comin’ Down with Somethin’.” Fear not, however, it’s not what you think – just a case of love that no doctor can cure. Roger plays slide on the title tune, “Lifetime of the Blues,” a steady-swinging blues-rocker that states that nobody really understands him or his situation.

Things quiet a little for “It’s Only a Matter of Time,” a fingerpicked ballad with clever lyrics that advises living a life that’s less demanding and planting a seed of hope and watching it grow because your life will pass faster than you can imagine. Connelly’s back on slide for the bluesy rocker, “American Dream Machine,” on which he proclaims himself to be a “bad mama-jammer” who’s driving his ’57 Chevy through a storm to make it to his lady’s side.

Siebels’ keys open the soulful ballad, “Teach You How to Dance,” a song that pleads a woman for half a chance at romance, before the shuffle, “I’ve Got Nothin’,” finds him sitting in his car in pouring rain as he bemoans the loss of the lady and, apparently, everything worthwhile. The theme continues in “Oughta Be a Law,” starts quietly before exploding as Roger announces he’s going to petition Congress for protection from the way he’s been treated.

Another ballad, “Livin’ on Borrowed Time,” revisits the theme of fleeting existence before the acoustic instrumental, “A Song for Kathy,” finds Connelly hitting the high notes as he shifts between fingerpicking and slide before “Point of View” brings the set to a close with images of someone who’s crying frozen tears behind prison bars, but insists that the man inside is someone that he used to know.

Lifetime of the Blues is a pleaser on multiple levels, delivering quality musicianship throughout and well-polished tunes that pack a punch with their words. Despite Connelly’s background, this definitely isn’t Chicago blues. But if you’re interested in contemporary Americana with timeless appeal, this one’s right up your alley.

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