Sarah Rogo – Live at Lestat’s West | Album Review

Sarah Rogo – Live at Lestat’s West

Funzalo Records

CD: 8 Songs, 27:14 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Folk, All Original Songs, Debut Album, Live Album, Solo Album

It’s hard to know what to make of San Diego’s Sarah Rogo and her debut release, Live at Lestat’s West. First of all, it’s a folk blues album, with only one song that incorporates more than a trace of traditional blues. Secondly, the performance has an open-mic-night vibe, not an open jam session vibe. Sarah plays acoustic guitar more than passably well, but not in the way most people think of when they ponder their favorite genre. Third, it’s not even thirty minutes long.

She has a sweet voice, which is a major advantage, a warm ray of Southern California sunshine in the midst of dark whiskey-and-gravel vocals. Janis Joplin, she definitely isn’t, but sometimes we need singing like hers to chase our blues away. This is music fit for the coffeehouse, not the roadhouse, with a laser-like focus on feelings. She may not quite nail melancholy songs like “Oh My God,” but with time, the mood will come.

According to her website, Rogo has always known where she belongs: “‘Everyone in my family has always known California was my home,’ she says. ‘Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of being a surfer.’” As for her history as an artist, “Rogo apprenticed and performed with local Boston musicians, guitarist Paul Rishell, who once played with Son House, and world-class harp player Annie Raines, along with acoustic country-blues guitarist Woody Mann, a former student of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis. They introduced her to artists like Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Led Zeppelin and the bottle neck slide on the National Resonator Guitar – for which she’s since become a spokesperson — then took her out with them on tour to Arkansas and Mississippi.

“Sarah proved an apt performer, and before long, she was writing songs in the vein of those whose music she idolized, evoking such contemporary singer-songwriters as Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, Eva Cassidy and folk rockers Dawes.”

Since Sarah gives a solo performance, recorded by Louis Brazier, she receives solo accolades.

The song below is the edgiest of the eight, best straddling the border between folk and blues.

Track 08: “Going Where the Weather Suits my Soul” – Anyone who’s ever felt out of place right at home, whether the weather be hot or cold, will relate to this song. Its stomping beat and air of wanderlust will make crowds sit up and pay attention, maybe “clap those hands,” as Sarah urges. “I said, ooooh, California, I’m coming home, yeah, I’m making it known!” Her sizzling slide guitar provides the right amount of zing to make coffee drinkers forget their java for a moment.

The plus side of this CD is that it’s atmospheric, in a citrus-tinged kind of way. You’ll smell fresh oranges and grapefruits while listening to Live at Lestat’s West, but not blueberry vodka.

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