An Interview with Garnet Rogers Who Will Perform in Harrisburg, PA, Nov 12

WE ARE SAD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO A FAMILY EMERGENCY.

By Jess Hayden.

Editor’s Note:
This interview was conducted in October, 2010 and has been adapted to include
information on Garnet Roger’s upcoming performance at the Fort Hunter Barn,
Harrisburg, PA  at 7:30, Saturday, November
12th.201. Additional information is at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

Garnet Rogers is a Canadian
songwriter who has performed throughout the world for the past 35 years. From
1973-1983 he was an accompanist for his brother Stan Rogers, perhaps one of the
most influential songwriters that Canada has ever produced. Since his brother’s
death, Garnet has become a phenomenal songwriter in his own right and has
continued on as a solo performer.

Jess: Good morning Garnet and thanks for speaking to me.

Garnet: Good morning. I’m just sitting here watching the snow.
First snow of the year. It’s not massive snow, just flurries.

Jess: You live on a farm, right?

Garnet: Yeah. It’s a small farm, 20 acres. We have horses. We have
a little breeding operation here. We have a thoroughbred stallion. And we own a
few rescue mares. It’s kind of winding down, though. At one point we had 22
horses and at two other farms that we were renting. That was ten years ago, but
we’re down to just a handful of horses now. It’s much easier on the back.

Jess: I’m a presenter for Susquehanna Folk where you are going to
be playing on November 12th. Last year you performed an opening set
for a Susquehanna Folk Greg Brown concert.

Opening for
Greg Brown

Garnet: Yeah. I had made an inquiry as I was sort of down in that
area. I knew that Greg was playing there and I just love him to bits. We don’t
get a chance to see each other very much. I think that I did a show for you
guys 7 or 8 years ago at the Fort Hunter Barn. You guys do such a good job. It
was a beautiful room and I just had a great time. I just have this really nice
memory of a very warm evening. It was a beautiful landscape around the barn. It
was one of those nights when you think “You know, this is not a bad way to make
a living.”

Jess: Well, thank you. We love presenting there; it has a lot of
warmth. But I think that you have done another concert for us too.

Touring with
Archie Fisher

Garnet: I remember doing one with Archie Fisher a million year
ago.

Jess: You put a CD out with Archie, right?

Garnet: We did a couple.

What audience
members might expect from a Garnet Rogers set

Jess: Can you tell me what people should expect at your concert?

Garnet: Well, I never quite know what I’m going to play until I
have the guitar in my hand. My songs tend to be fairly serious. The stuff between
the songs tend to be not. I sort of have this—I don’t know if you call it
“bi-polar” approach to doing shows where the songs all tend to be of a fairly
series nature and between them I’m just basically making fun of myself and
whatever I see around me. So, it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed
to be laughing. They generally do. I’m not doing stand-up comedy or anything;
it’s just “observational weirdness”.

A Guitar
Collector

I’ll probably just have a couple of guitars with me. Last night I
did a show locally and I had more. I generally have anywhere between 7 and a
dozen guitars with me. They are all tuned differently and they all have
different sounds and personalities, different problems that I have to adjust
to. That’s really part of my thing; I go around with a museum collection of old
guitars. My wife and I have two houses. One of the houses is just full of
guitars. That’s my workhouse. I got a guitar in last week and another one that
I’m hoping to pick up in Ithaca on my way to Harrisburg. It’s just a constant
quest for new sound.

Jess: Are you trying out new luthiers too, or is it mostly antique
stuff?

Garnet: It’s mostly antiques. Anything made before 1944. After
that it has to be a pretty spectacular instrument or something really special
for me to truly lust after it. There is a period between 1942 and 1944 that I
particularly like guitars from the Gibson guitar factory where the guitars were
mostly made by women because of the war thing. There is something really
special about those guitars. They were just made really beautifully. I think
that women tend to focus better on details. There were a handful of old guys
who were teaching them, they were too old and frail to do war work, so these
women learned from the masters. That’s sort of the period that I like the best.
But, I have guitars that go all the way back to 1890. It’s partly conservation
as well. If I find something that needs a home, to be brought back to life—it’s
sort of the guitar version of the horse rescue that we do. It’s like finding
some brude mare that shivering in a field and you say “damn”, and you take her
home and you put a blanket on her and she spends the rest of her life in a
friendly place. It’s kind of an impulse to sort of preserve things.

Garnet Rogers
CDs

Jess: I read an article that said that you had 9 solo CDs, but you
probably have more by now. Do you know what number you are up to?

Garnet: 12 or 13 I think—but another dozen with other people.

Jess: Do you have your own label?

Garnet: I’ve always had my own label since 1976. Snow Goose.

Jess: You recorded one on Red House Records though. How did that
come about?

Garnet: Well Bob Feldman, rest his soul, he just always said to
me, “I think you are a Red House artist”. You know, even as good and fair as
Red House is, it’s the best of all the independents, it just financially didn’t
make sense for me to have to buy back my own music from my record company. So
they just said if I wanted to do a record that I could do a compilation and I
could have whatever I wanted on it from the first 9 albums. So that’s what they
did. The put together a nice compilation and they did a lovely job on it, but I
didn’t really have any input on it. It was nice. It got the name around a
little more. [Editor’s note: All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers] But
that’s as far as it went. I really strongly believe in keeping control of my
own deal. Once you give the record company the right, you give them the right
to have input. I’m not really big on that.

Jess: Your newest CD “Get a Witness” features quite a few songs
that feature other songwriters. Is that unusual for you?

Garnett: It’s just a little bit different as I wanted to record
some songs that I had in the repertoire. There was a Karen Savoca song that I
really, really wanted to do. There was a Bruce Springsteen song which
dovetailed nicely with the last two songs on the CD, one of which is mine, the
other one of my brother’s. [Editor’s note: Stan Rogers] That ended up being a
whole half hour piece. Those three songs plus an instrumental break in the
middle. They were all performed live with no editing. It’s as it was performed.
I’m so proud of it and the way that the band performed. It’s an extraordinary
band. At one point there are 8 people on stage and they are just really giving
it hell.

Jess: Is this your own band?

Garnet: It was actually the core of another band and then some
people that I played with for a couple of years including David Woodhead
[Editor’s note: bass player who recently played in a SFMS concert with James
Keelaghan] who I have been playing with since 1975. He has been on about every
folk album in Canada for 35 years.

Jess: This CD seems to be a little more electric then some of your
others.

Garnet: The whole CD is not that way but the first one in
particular is really a kind of mean spirited slap at your X-president, George
W. And that kind of just needed a very loud and aggressive treatment. There is
also a gospel number dedicated to Coretta Scott King that needed a full, what I
was imagining to be a gospel treatment. So that got pretty big. And the last
half an hour gets pretty big, but the rest of it is quiet and a little more
folky. But for your show on November 12th, I’ll just be a guy with his guitar.

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Concert Review: Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and Garnet Rogers

By folkmama, 12/07/10

Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey and Garnet Rogers performed in front of a full house on Sunday, December 5, 2010 near Harrisburg, PA for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert. Garnet did an opening set, and later joined Greg and Bo for four numbers at the end of the evening.

GARNET ROGERS OPENS

It was a special treat to start of the evening’s concert with one of Canada’s best and most prolific songwriters; Garnet Rogers. A great friend and admirer of Brown’s, he asked Susquehanna Folk if he could share the bill.  Garnet is everything audiences could possibly want in a folk singer—lovely voice, masterful guitar work, lots of humor and terrific lyrics. He’s is also an enthusiastic collector of vintage guitars, all produced before 1944. For his short set he had one end of the stage lined up with a selection of some of his beautiful, antique guitars—each one gleaming and clearly well looked after.

 Garnet opened up his set up with the lovely song Soul Kiss which is a good choice for showing off his stunning baritone voice. The song has the beautiful lyrics “Seal it with a soul kiss. Nothing is as beautiful as this. Soul kiss changed your life. Have mercy on a soul kiss”. After switching guitars (and moods), he lit into the bluesy number Welcome to Hell–a cleverly written  “walking tour” of hell—who’d you see, what you’d hear and whose books you’d be expected to read. Love the last stanza; “You could have been a better guy, not so much of a jerk. Quit your whining here’s your banjo, get to work.”

Last on his set was another slow, beautiful number; this one a song of thanksgiving. He told the audience that he’d recently bought a little house in Nova Scotia (four houses down from where his grandmother used to live) where he could look out and see the cove. The reflective lyric “The small boats outside my window reflect their color to the water, like gaudy gypsy caravans, bright yellow red and blue” is a good example of Garnet’s ability to use words to paint crystal clear images in the listeners’ minds.It was a very strong set from an exceptional performer who Susquehanna Folk hopes to bring back soon for a full evening of music!

GREG BROWN AND BO RAMSEY

After an intermission we welcomed Greg Brown with his sideman, fellow “Iowan” Bo Ramsey. For those that are unfamiliar with Greg Brown in concert, he’s a little difficult to describe. He definitely has a mystique about him, created, in part by his ultra-relaxed persona on stage and his unusual outlook on life. If you are used to those entertainers that jump around and really play to the audience, Greg is certainly on the other end of the spectrum.  Audience members feel such an honesty and intensity from him that it puts them on the edge of their seats and makes them really want to listen–hard. Like Garnet, his songs paint vivid pictures of everyday wonders, fears and struggles.  He brings his music and beautiful poetry to audiences in an unassuming manner which reflects who his is and what he stands for.

He started his set with one of my favorite Iris Dement songs Let the Mystery Be (“But no one knows for sure, and so it’s all the same to me, I think I’ll just let the mystery be”) and continued  with “Freak Flag”—an anthem about being proud of who you are. (“For every soul you can be down. For every child who sees the light and turns around, come on now; let’s let the freak flag fly.”) The next number One Wrong Turn showed off Brown’s gravelly voice. He continued his set with a couple of unnamed rhythm and blues numbers, featuring some nice guitar licks by Bo Ramsey. Then he lit into the humorous Fat Boy Blues (“I looked down in consternation, I couldn’t even see my shoes. Houston we have a situation. I’ve got the fat boy blues”)

Greg did a few more numbers, but like me, the audience was probably getting anxious for one of his off-beat stories, and we weren’t disappointed.  Towards the end of the evening he told a very funny story about the whippoorwills outside of his farm making such an “insane amount of noise” that they should go to see “bird therapists”, even though they were just making all that noise “looking for love.” The lyrics of the Whippoorwill song are quite nice too:  “You are dearer to me than the birds or the stars, Sweeter to me than the hills and the flowers. Long as I have you I can take anything. So let love be home, and let the whippoorwill sing.”

The long night of terrific music ended with Greg, Bo and Garnet performing three songs together. It was quite a memorable concert full of excellent music and good stories. I recommend that you take a listen to Garnet and Greg’s music by checking out the You Tube’s below.

Garnet Rogers, Soul Kiss:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySn-WEePnW4

Garnet Rogers, Welcome to Hell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_08LRIhTSG0)

Greg Brow, Fat Boy Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqBG-ml3LgI

Greg Brown, Whippoorwill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyLMOItxlKY

A Conversation with GARNET ROGERS. November 27, 2010.

By Jess Hayden.

Editor’s note: Garnet Rogers is a Canadian songwriter who has performed throughout the world for the past 35 years. From 1973-1983 he was an accompanist for his brother Stan Rogers, perhaps one of the most influential songwriters that Canada has ever produced. Since his brother’s death, Garnet has become a phenomenal songwriter in his own right and has continued on as a solo performer.  

Garnet will be opening for fellow singer/songwriter Greg Brown on Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 7:30 pm at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church (near Harrisburg, PA. Info, www.susquehannafolk.org) Garnet will also be joining Greg for a few numbers on stage. Garnet and Greg recorded “Live at the Black Sheep” together in 2003.

 Jess: Good morning Garnet and thanks for speaking to me.

 Garnet: Good morning. I’m just sitting here watching the snow. First snow of the year. It’s not massive snow, just flurries.

 Jess: You live on a farm, right?

 Garnet: Yeah. It’s a small farm, 20 acres. We have horses. We have a little breeding operation here. We have a thoroughbred stallion. And we own a few rescue mares. It’s kind of winding down, though. At one point we had 22 horses and at two other farms that we were renting. That was ten years ago, but we’re down to just a handful of horses now. It’s much easier on the back.

 Jess: I’m a presenter for Susquehanna Folk where you are going to be playing on December 5th.

 Opening for Greg Brown

Garnet: Yeah. I had made an inquiry as I was sort of down in that area. I knew that Greg was playing there and I just love him to bits. We don’t get a chance to see each other very much.

Jess: Well you know we had a concert with James Keelaghan a couple of week ago and I announced that you were coming and there were a lot of people that were really excited. So I think that it’s really just going to add to the wonderment of the evening having you there.

Garnet: Well that’s great, I really appreciate being on. I think that I did a show for you guys 7 or 8 years ago at the Fort Hunter Barn. You guys do such a good job. It was a beautiful room and I just had a great time. I just have this really nice memory of a very warm evening. It was a beautiful landscape around the barn. It was one of those nights when you think “You know, this is not a bad way to make a living.”

Jess: Well, thank you. We love presenting there, it has a lot of warmth. But I think that you have done another concert for us too.

Touring with Archie Fisher

Garnet: I remember doing one with Archie Fisher a million year ago. In fact Archie and I are touring again in April. It started out as a week long run, then it got to be a 10 day run, and now it’s looking like two and a half weeks. People keep on calling up and saying “Hey, what about us?” It will be a 5th anniversary tour.

Jess: You put a CD out with Archie, right?

Garnet: We did a couple.

The live CD with Greg Brown

Jess: Now you and Greg also had a live CD together.

Garnet: Yes, it’s called “Live at the Black Sheep”. There is this really great famous club in the woods up in Quebec about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa, Canada’s capitol. It’s just this great place. There is a river and fly fishing and potters and artisans and painters. It was just custom made for Greg, who said “Oh wow, they’ve got fly fishing?” [Editor’s note: Greg Brown is an avid fly fisherman] So we just did a couple of nights there with Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman. We just had a tape machine running and it was just one of those weird two nights when we were sitting around just playing off of each other and we were all doing harmonies. It was just lovely and probably more fun than was strictly necessary. There was a really buzz about it. People would be out fly fishing during the day and at night they would come to our concert. And someone would yell, “Come on in. We’re starting.” And people would come in and get them self arranged and it was just jammed. People sitting there with their dogs and their fly rods. There’s an old Swedish steam engine locomotive that goes by every once and awhile. It’s just kind of magic.

Jess: It sounds like from the write up of the CD that you were all doing “round robin”. So you all got a chance to play some of your own music.

Garnet: Yes, exactly. Actually, in that market I was the best known artist. That was the first time that Greg had been in the area, the first time for Pete and Karen too. We were just calling out songs that we just wanted to do, and we’d say, “Oh yeah, I kind of know that.” And there were some songs that none of us really knew. Pete and Karen were pulling out some new stuff, and I was pulling out new stuff and Greg was pulling out some stuff that we never heard him play. We were all listening carefully. When you have musicians that really know how to listen there is usually some kind of magic moment that happens where it all kind of comes together. People really like it. It has a friendly vibe to it. You’d never believe that it was completely unrehearsed.

What audience members might expect from a Garnet Rogers set

Jess: Well, from the reaction that I got at the James Keelaghan concert when I announced your name, it was clear that a lot of people know you. But for those that don’t who may be reading this interview, can you tell me what they should expect to hear during your short set?

Garnet: Well, I never quite know what I’m going to play until I have the guitar in my hand. My songs tend to be fairly serious. The stuff between the songs tend to be not. I sort of have this—I don’t know if you call it “bi-polar” approach to doing shows where the songs all tend to be of a fairly series nature and between them I’m just basically making fun of myself and whatever I see around me. So, it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed to be laughing. They generally do. I’m not doing stand-up comedy or anything, it’s just “observational weirdness”.

A Guitar Collector

I’ll probably just have a couple of guitars with me. Last night I did a show locally and I had more. I generally have anywhere between 7 and a dozen guitars with me. They are all tuned differently and they all have different sounds and personalities, different problems that I have to adjust to. That’s really part of my thing, I go around with a museum collection of old guitars. My wife and I have two houses. One of the houses is just full of guitars. That’s my workhouse. I got a guitar in last week and another one that I’m hoping to pick up in Ithaca on my way to Harrisburg. It’s just a constant quest for new sound.

Jess: Are you trying out new luthiers too, or is it mostly antique stuff?

Garnet: It’s mostly antiques. Anything made before 1944. After that it has to be a pretty spectacular instrument or something really special for me to truly lust after it. There is a period between 1942 and 1944 that I particularly like guitars from the Gibson guitar factory where the guitars were mostly made by women because of the war thing. There is something really special about those guitars. They were just made really beautifully. I think that women tend to focus better on details. There were a handful of old guys who were teaching them, they were too old and frail to do war work, so these women learned from the masters. That’s sort of the period that I like the best. But, I have guitars that go all the way back to 1890. It’s partly conservation as well. If I find something that needs a home, to be brought back to life—it’s sort of the guitar version of the horse rescue that we do. It’s like finding some brude mare that shivering in a field and you say “damn”, and you take her home and you put a blanket on her and she spends the rest of her life in a friendly place. It’s kind of an impulse to sort of preserve things.

Garnet Rogers CDs

Jess: I read an article that said that you had 9 solo CDs, but you probably have more by now. Do you know what number you are up to?

Garnet: 12 or 13 I think—but another dozen with other people.

Jess: Do you have your own label?

Garnet: I’ve always had my own label since 1976. Snow Goose.

Jess: You recorded one on Red House Records though. How did that come about?

Garnet: Well Bob Feldman, rest his soul, he just always said to me, “I think you are a Red House artist”. You know, even as good and fair as Red House is, it’s the best of all the independents, it just financially didn’t make sense for me to have to buy back my own music from my record company. So they just said if I wanted to do a record that I could do a compilation and I could have whatever I wanted on it from the first 9 albums. So that’s what they did. The put together a nice compilation and they did a lovely job on it, but I didn’t really have any input on it. It was nice. It got the name around a little more. [Editor’s note: All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers] But that’s as far as it went. I really strongly believe in keeping control of my own deal. Once you give the record company the right, you give them the right to have input. I’m not really big on that.

Jess: Your newest CD “Get a Witness” features quite a few songs that feature other songwriters. Is that unusual for you?

Garnett: It’s just a little bit different as I wanted to record some songs that I had in the repertoire. There was a Karen Savoca song that I really, really wanted to do. There was a Bruce Springsteen song which dovetailed nicely with the last two songs on the CD, one of which is mine, the other one of my brother’s. [Editor’s note: Stan Rogers] That ended up being a whole half hour piece. Those three songs plus an instrumental break in the middle. They were all performed live with no editing. It’s as it was performed. I’m so proud of it and the way that the band performed. It’s an extraordinary band. At one point there are 8 people on stage and they are just really giving it hell.

Jess: Is this your own band?

Garnet: It was actually the core of another band and then some people that I played with for a couple of years including David Woodhead [Editor’s note: bass player who recently played in a SFMS concert with James Keelaghan] who I have been playing with since 1975. He has been on about every folk album in Canada for 35 years.

Jess: This CD seems to be a little more electric then some of your others.

Garnet: The whole CD is not that way but the first one in particular is really a kind of mean spirited slap at your X-president, George W. And that kind of just needed a very loud and aggressive treatment. There is also a gospel number dedicated to Coretta Scott King that needed a full, what I was imagining to be a gospel treatment. So that got pretty big. And the last half an hour gets pretty big, but the rest of it is quiet and a little more folky. But for your show on December 5th, I’ll just be a guy with his guitar.

 

Gifted Songwriter and Storyteller GREG BROWN to Appear Near Harrisburg, PA December 5, 2010.

Greg Brown first gained nationwide recognition during the 1980s and 1990s as a regular on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion”. A prolific songwriter and a keen observer of the natural world, Brown says that that he likes to think about his work “as stories sanded down into songs.” He has recorded over two dozen records, and has twice been nominated for a Grammy.

Greg Brown was born in the Hacklebarney section of southeastern Iowa and raised by a family that made words and music a way of life. His grandfather played the banjo, his grandmother played the pump organ, and his uncles played the mandolin. He grew up in coal country in an area that attracted coal miners from the Appalachian region. Because of this some of the Scots/Irish traditions associated with the Appalachians had  traveled overland to Iowa. “I grew up in a very fortunate way for someone who wants to be a musician, my kind of musician anyway” he said in a recent NPR interview “I just grew up with the stuff. That and church music.”

An important” training ground” for his magnificent lyrics seems to be his early childhood experiences with poetry. His mother, an English teacher, loved poetry and would often recite it to him. “I never made a big distinction in my mind between poetry and song” he said “I grew up loving both so much. And when I hear a poet read to me it’s the same experience as hearing music.”

The lyrics of his song “Early” show the subtle,  evocative  poetry that Brown is so well known for:

“Early”

Early one morning I walked out alone,

I looked down the street; no one was around.

The sun was just comin’ up over my home,

On Hickory Street in a little farm town.  And

Oooo-ee, ain’t the mornin’ light pretty,

When the dew is still heavy, so bright and early.

My home on the range; it’s a one-horse town,

And it’s alright with me.

Plow broke the prairie, the prairie gave plenty,

The little towns blossomed and soon there were many.

Scattered like fireflies across the dark night,

And one was called Early, and they sure named it right. 

Many dry summers parched all the fields,

They burnt the fine colors and cut down on the yield.

But the rain has returned to wash away our tears,

It’s the fullest green summer that

I’ve seen for years.

Beyond being a poet, Brown is also a gifted  storyteller. “The best songwriters are the ones that tell the best stories” says music critic Meredith Ochs “Greg Brown doesn’t just tell stories in a linear fashion. Instead he appeals to the senses as he creates a backdrop for his characters. The way that he describes sights, sounds and smells draws you right into his songs.”

Greg’s youth was spread across a map of the Midwest as they moved between churches (and even denominations), but music was always a staple. Gospel and hymns, classical, hillbilly, early rock and roll, country, and blues coalesced into a simmering stew of sound. At 18, Greg won a contest to play an opening set for singer Eric Andersen in Iowa City, who then encouraged him to head east. Moving to New York, Greg landed a job at Gerdes Folk City in the Village running hootenannies. Next he tried Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but after a few years he moved back to Iowa. He recorded a couple of albums on his own (44 & 66 and The Iowa Waltz), then began working on the renowned national radio show A Prairie Home Companion and touring nationally. After Greg teamed up with Bob Feldman in 1983, they re-released Greg’s first two albums under the name Red House Records — the beginning of the now legendary folk/roots label that has released nearly all of Greg’s 27 albums.

His latest solo album is The Evening Call which was released in 2006. It has charted high on Americana and folk radio, earned him five stars in Mojo and garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Acoustic Guitar and The Washington Post. Greg’s new collection Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2, 1997-2006 features some of these new Americana classics along with other fan favorites from his last six studio albums and some previously unreleased material and live tracks.

Greg Brown will perform with sideman Bo Ramsey in a concert sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society beginning at 7:30 on Saturday, December 5. Garnett Rogers will open. The concert will be held at CHUM  in Camp Hill, PA.  Information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/GregBrown.html

Written on November 18, 2010 by Jess Hayden from material compiled from Red House Record’s website and NPR interviews.