My convoluted mind can’t help jumping to conclusions (the only exercise I get!) and painting an internal picture from very little evidence with Skylar Rogers smokes on Firebreather. Resulting in – when I first heard of Skylar Rogers my imagination leapt to the stars and saw her sat alongside Han Solo…psychiatrists out there will be having a field day! Once I reined in my imagination I did the research which, interestingly, tells me that ‘Skylar’ is actually a Dutch derived, English name meaning “noble scholar”…far more interesting and esoteric than my mental ramblings.
Further research revealed this lady is a Chicago born vocalist who takes the blues, puts some soul into them and, with the help of a talented band known as The Blue Diamonds, has produced a full length album to prove that her debut EP in 2018, was just a taster for the music to come.
Her album is suitably called Firebreather and delivers ten tracks that are steeped in her home city and the music it welcomed and reshaped; so expect Chicago, St Louis and Memphis to inform the songwriting as Skylar breathes fire (well, it had to be said) into her take on the blues.
Bluesdoodles thoughts on Firebreather
Opener Hard Headed Woman leaves you in no doubt about her stylish vocals and the band’s abilities…the blues-rock riffing behind her soulful contralto makes this an irresistible start; the guitar phrasing behind the lyrics echoes the melody and sentiment in a clever way and the solo is rather good too. Back To Memphis continues the rocky blues with a Bad Co kind of riff but with the keys and vocal inflexions making sure the Memphis reference is apparent.
Work is up next and adds a minor funk to the rock melodies and soloing. Like Father Like Daughter puts a bit of Southern into the blues-rock although, as the first single, it is what they call radio-ready and a bit lighter than the others…not a bad thing in this case as it’s damnably catchy as singles should be. The inevitable, and welcome ballad, Failure, is a much more traditional blues pattern and Skylar pours the emotion into every word as the band keep the mood effectively with the sparse playing.
The title track, Firebreather, moves us back into the rockier side with a fascinating rolling riff with neat overdubs before the band join in at full volume before reducing it to bass, foot drum and Skylar’s nicely paced and pitched vocals and the central (short) guitar solo strengthens this track as my runaway favourite. Movin’ On is a gospel-infused song, especially when the clapping joins the guitar and vocals to make it an enjoyable sing-a-long kind of blues song nodding to the past, but still very current. The piano-led Drowning is sung with passion and depth as the simple, repeated piano melody and the guitar punctuations add to the feeling.
The penultimate song, Thankful, is drenched with delicious Hammond chords as we get a slow blues that shouts (quietly) quality…the guitar solo does it all justice with a carefully picked approach. The final track, Insecurities, is a sort of heavied, bluesified Tamla…that simple snare beat is why. Probably because of that influence this is my least likely to hit repeat song…not that it’s bad, just not up to the quality of the rest…but that’s just me.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws; a varied and rewarding blues album that will stand the test of time and will be a welcome addition to any blues collection.
1. Hard Headed Woman
2. Back To Memphis
4. Like Father Like Daughter
7. Movin’ On
Skylar Rogers: vocals
Stephen J Hill: guitar
Marty Gibson: guitar
Jerry Ewing: bass
Bradley Arl: drums
Recorded at Sawhorse Studios, St Louis
(The iTunes run-on track took me to the wonderful pairing of Slash and Beth Hart with the very good Mother Maria.)