Review: Roy Rogers – Split Decision (BPCD 5130)

Posted on: Sunday, Jul 12, 2009


“Split Decision”

(Blind Pig Records: BPCD 5130)

The new album from West Coast slide-master, Roy Rogers, sees a return to Blind Pig Records, for this his first studio release with his band, The Delta Rhythm Kings, in seven years – namely Steve Ehrmann (bass) and Billy Lewis (drums), with it crossing many genres and the man saying .  .  . “I really wanted to craft strong stories, mix it up a bit with a lot of different guitar tones” . . . he has certainly achieved that over 12 varied tracks, including three instrumentals.

The core trio are assisted by special guests Phillip Aaberg (piano and keyboards), George Brooks (alto and tenor saxophones), Ottmar Liebert (guitar, one track) and Roy Rogers son, Sam, on vocal bass, berimbau and percussion. Roy Rogers has been prominent on the San Francisco scene for many decades now, including a long stint in John Lee Hooker’s Coast to Coast Blues Band – he released his first solo album in 1985, with another career highlight being featured on the tremendous soundtrack for the move “The Hot Spot” in 1990, alongside the likes of Miles Davies, Taj Mahal and John Lee Hooker.

“Split Decision” gets under way with the thunderous “Calm Before The Storm” – lots of his inventive slide work here, with the more bluesy “Patron Saint Of Pain” up next, with a nice mid tempo shuffle and Phillip Aaberg’s tickling ivories. “Little Queen Bee” is a tale of the local ‘wild child’ and rocks along in fine style, followed by the Latin-flavoured “River Of Tears” – complete with beautiful slide solo.

“Bitter Rain” has a tough guitar sound to it, with some trading between acoustic and electric guitars; the album’s first instrumental “Your Sweet Embrace” is a mainly acoustic number with some striking playing from Rogers, leading into the country leanings of “Someone Like You”. The second instrumental, “Rite Of Passage” is firmly in a jazz groove, embellished by George Brooks’ inspired saxophone playing – very nice indeed!

Elsewhere, “Requiem For A Heavyweight” rides along nicely – Rogers guitar work pushed along by The Delta Rhythm Kings . . . who are quite excellent throughout the album. The soulful ballad “I Would Undo Anything” is another highlight – to these ears reminiscent of The Rolling Stones 80s’ material – and probably Rogers best vocal of the release; the last track being the tough blues instrumental, “Walkin’ The Levee”, with one of the thickest slide tones you will hear!

For any lovers of tasteful slide guitar, mixed up into many feels and genres, “Split Decision” comes highly recommended – the album has a lovely sound to it, with the emphasis on the songs, as opposed to lengthy solos.


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