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A Garnet in the rough

Posted by Cat / April 29, 2007

20070428_GarnetRogers.jpgFor all of you who frequent the Green Room for beer and foosball, or to let loose on the dance floor with your favourite DJ, or simply to rawk out, you would have found a very transformed Green Room last Thursday eve.

Hello Darlin' Productions
, Montreal’s first-rate presenters of folk, roots, traditional, blues, and bluegrass music, brought Garnet Rogers to town for an intimate evening with one of Canada's best singer-songwriters…ever.

Hailed as "a first rate singer" and someone who "may be the greatest male vocalist performing in the contemporary folk scene" by Sing Out magazine, and "among the most significant folk stars working today" by the Boston Globe, Rogers held sway over a rapt audience. Garnet's songs moved from poignant to determined, jubilant to melancholic, bittersweet to loving. The mood in the room was welcoming and warm.

A Garnet Rogers set is always a mix of old and new songs, peppered with humorous anecdotes and timely reflections. Like his legendary brother Stan, Garnet writes about the workingman, about his joys and his woes. "Droll, erotic ... vivid, passionate writing, laden with the fears and courage of hard-hit ordinary people" is how the Boston Phoenix describes his lyrics. Garnet frequently includes a song or two by his brother in his sets, and undoubtedly some of his stories involve Stan. His music is a bit more edgy than Stan's, but there is always an undercurrent of love in every song he writes.
20070428_GarnetRogers2.jpgAt six and a half feet tall, with a voice as deep, full, and refreshing as a country well, I started to think of Garnet as the grown-up version of my childhood hero, the "Friendly Giant". No longer innocent, yet with an even more defined sense of right and wrong and heart full of forgiveness, Garnet Roger's songs and stories provide a gentle hand on your shoulder.

"Nothing is as sweet as a soul kiss," whispers Garnet on a tune from his latest album, "Shining Thing". And I think everyone in the room may have felt that kiss. When Garnet gently chided the audience for requesting nothing but songs dealing with darkness and depression, saying he was "really concerned about us", somebody shot back "Well, you wrote 'em!" The whole room shared a soft chuckle.

A true guitar master and multi-instrumentalist, Garnet created a varied but consistent soundscape throughout the entire concert. At one point, he pulled out what might have been an electric mandolin where it not for the fact that it seemed to have 12 strings, not eight, but it produced a marvellous tremolo effect. Another electric set felt incredibly dreamy, with his voice floating on the top, almost like spoken-word poetry. And the show ended with the powerful reverb of an echo-delay guitar for Garnet's classic song "Night Drive" which he then steered into a rousing version of Stan's song "Northwest Passage." It was a climactic ending to a very intimate concert.

Admittedly, I prefer the acoustic sets to the songs Garnet performs on electric guitar, if only because I am so enamoured of the richness in this man's voice. He is an exceptional guitar player so, acoustic or electric, it's always a treat. But I love the way in which his voice brings out the hidden beauty that is so present in the lyrics he writes. I find it simultaneously calming and stirring to the soul.

I think his friend and fellow musician Greg Brown puts it best when he states: "I have found strength and comfort in his songs. This is good and rich and big music. Welcome one and all. Come on in. Get down."

Photos by Ed Krygier, courtesy of



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