By Sarah Bauer
VANCOUVER — Ben Rogers’ sophomore output The Bloodred Yonder opens with a murder ballad brewed by the Book of Genesis. Wild rose petals fall and turn to blood, trickling down through the record’s ten tunes till the last, where in “Darling Please,” the roses “curtsy and die in my hand and lie in humble slaughter.” A macabre image indeed. There are roses everywhere on this record, and blood, too. What’s going on in the head of Rogers, a Vancouver-based songwriter and overall really nice guy?
“I’m obsessed with language and formulating motifs and imagery that are cohesive through an album even though the tempo or the spirit of the songs are not always the same,” says Rogers from his home in Vancouver one Saturday morning, nursing the hangover of the night before’s album release celebration, eating chips.
The Bloodred Yonder, released by Tonic Records on August 14th, is not a concept album per se, but it was inspired in part by records like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads. Rogers wanted to make a country record meant to “evoke a different world inside the listener’s head.”
Rogers had a bona fide supergroup of americana specialists on deck to help bring his wild and greasy outlaw country vision to life, with Matt Kelly (City and Color) on pedal steel and keys, John Sponarski (Portage and Main) on lead guitar, Leon Power (Frazey Ford) on drums, Erik Nielson (Rich Hope) on bass, and Rogers’ older brother Matt (The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer) producing. The talented collective spirit on Bloodred leans more towards the boisterous, rascally side of country; songs “Wanted” and “The More I Learn” would surely win a couple belly laughs from David Allan Coe.
And it’s a deplorable, boozy good time when the “Panhandler” rolls into town with his “three-legged dog called Tripod.” Here is a true character, born in the imagination of Rogers, relayed masterfully with Rogers’ grizzly, hard-drinking-sounding voice and the tune’s boxcar momentum. In music, Rogers believes “imagination reigns supreme.”
“Music exists in another dimension and your experience or where you’re from is nullified in that world,” says Rogers.
In the world of The Bloodred Yonder, there is plenty of rich, sinister, and sometimes hilarious scenery to escape to. You can run with the outlaws for a while.
“I love artists like Mark Bolan, who put a lot of theatre into what he did. Kurt Cobain did. Seeger did. All these people were larger than life and they put on a show,” Rogers says. “And I like to put on a show.”
Ben Rogers performs on September 17 in Victoria for Rifflandia Festival and September 18 in Vancouver at the Wise Hall.BC, Ben Rogers, British Columbia, Rifflandia Festival, Wise Hall