Self Release through Chops not Chaps Records
11 tracks / 42:09
Grammy Award-winner Roy Rogers has worked hard on his way to the top to become the premier slide guitarist in blues music today. He has a history that most other guitarists can only dream of, having played with luminaries of the industry such as John Lee Hooker, Steve Miller, B.B. King, and the Doors’ Ray Manzarek. But his fretboard talents are not his only skill, as he is also a master songwriter, which can be heard in his 12th solo release, Into the Wild Blue.
Fans have been waiting five years for a new Roy Rogers solo disc, and Into the Wild Blue does not disappoint. He spent the last year writing the music, and most of the eleven tracks were laid down in just four days. This self-produced album includes a cast of awesome musicians that teamed up with him. On this effort, Rogers took care of the guitars and vocals, and he was joined by Steve Ehrmann on bass, Kevin Hayes behind the drum kit, and Jim Pugh on the keys.
Things get started on a fun note with “Last Go-Around,” a peppy tune with jangly slide playing galore. It is a lot more amicable than most songs about break-ups, and is well arranged with a full sound and a danceable beat. This is followed up by “Don’t You Let Them Win” which brings a world beat with some nice stringed-harp from guest artist Carlos Reyes, who brings his expertise to a half dozen tracks on this release. There is also a tasteful bit of Hammond B3 courtesy of Pugh, and a funky drum break from Hayes.
“Got to Believe” is the best vocal track on Into the Wild Blue, with Rogers’ inimitable voice, and lovely backing vocals from Omega Rae. Reyes brings his violin into the mix, giving the song a spooky aura over its Afro-Cuban beat. This is one of the tracks that highlight what a fine job they did in the studio and behind the mixing board. All of the parts are perfectly balanced and to the listener it clicks just perfectly. This is rare for self-produced albums, and the attention to detail is much appreciated.
This set also includes a handful of instrumentals, and they are just killer in every respect. They mostly defy efforts to shoehorn them into any one category as they have elements of blues, rock, jazz, and country. But the unifying theme is they are all truly original and played with consummate skill. “Dackin’” and “High Steppin’” are both righteous jams with stout backlines, plenty of organ and incredible guitar lines from Rogers. And then there is the title track, which is extremely ambitious. “Into the Wild Blue” has a foundation of piano and fat bass, and an intricate interplay between Reyes’ harp and Roy’s six-string. This is definitely one of the standout tracks on the album, even though it almost falls into the jazz/easy listening camp. The band should be proud of the work they put in here!
The album ends with a one last instrumental, “Song for Robert (A Brother’s Lament),” which is a tribute to Roy’s younger brother who passed away last year. But rather than being a sad song, this beautiful coda is melodic and intricate, yet still joyful. Reyes’ stringed harp is an appropriate counterpoint to Roy’s heartfelt slide work. You can truly feel the love here, and it is a wonderful testimony to the brothers’ relationship.
Into the Wild Blue was well worth the wait, and it is great to hear that Roy Rogers is still at the top of his game. This well-produced album is a collection of different genres that are thoughtfully sequenced into a cohesive whole, so it would be a disservice to just cherry-pick a few tracks off of iTunes. It is a must-have for fans of guitar music, and if you are anywhere near the Bay Area it will be well worth your time to head over to his web site to peruse his gig schedule so you can check him out in person. You will not be disappointed!