Ben Rogers is a Folk/Americana artist the likes of Dylan and Springsteen who is resurrecting murder ballads and traditional forms while combining classic storytelling to form a distinct and captivating sound. Rogers is an engaging, refreshing and memorable songwriter and performer with a voice like smoke-damaged velvet who is on the rise and as American Roots UK proclaims could "turn out to be one of the best songwriters for a generation." He will be touring extensively throughout North America and Europe in support of the forthcoming album Lost Stories which is to be released in January, 2013.
My great-great granduncle, George Rogers, was on a hunting trip in eastern Kansas with a friend in the winter of 1875. After trailing and driving deer for five days they still hadn’t fired a single shot. But while canoeing down the Wakarusa River George spotted something hopeful through the brush along the riverbank. He took aim and fired. It was a good, clean shot and through the slow clearing smoke, he could see the foliage shake and spread beneath weight of the kill. He and his partner paddled ashore hurriedly to collect their prize but as they drew near, their minds filled with horror at the sight they beheld. A young squaw no more than sixteen, lay drenched in blood, slain by the bullet from George’s rifle. He had fatefully mistaken her buckskin garments for that of a living deer and shot her through the heart, killing her instantly. What he did not know then was that his victim was the princess of the Osage Indian tribe and when they finally tracked him down he was presented before the entire village, stripped, and then skinned alive.
When my grandfather told me that story, he concluded by saying: “Always know what you’re after, otherwise you might end up dead.” I was only eight years old at the time but I’ll be damned if it didn’t stick with me for the next twelve years. I went to art school and dropped out then tried my hand at film school only to drop out of that too. I never learned much of anything in either of those places. I guess it’s because my true teachers are people whose wisdom is unfettered and free, people who have stories to tell, people like my grandfather.
I can still remember the first time I heard Woody Guthrie. There was a power outage in the neighbourhood and the only thing I could do was read Hemingway by candlelight and listen to my battery-powered radio. I turned it on and Tom Joad was playing on CBC Radio 3. I put Hemingway down almost immediately. I had read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath so I was familiar with the story but something in the way Woody sang it made my hair stand up and my skin get goosebumps. I bought his Dust Bowl Ballads album the following day and listening to it made me feel like I was someplace else. His songs are impeccably simple and poignant, archaic but everlasting. Nothing in his collection of work can be tied to the candied pandemonium of most contemporary music; pitch-shifted musclemen and midriff-bearing demi-divas.
I used to think that folk music was the be-all end-all of music but I know better than that now. I'm not a folk snob. I love plenty of new music, computer music, rap music, any kind of music that tells a story. But for now I make folk music for the most part. I’m just not finished with the past and I’m in no hurry to catch up. I’m wandering along dormant railroads strangled by tall weeds in a time long ago. I’m lost somewhere along the Wakarusa River, but instead of a rifle in my hands, I've got a Gibson guitar with a big hole in it and aside from a few cuts and scrapes, I still have most of my skin to speak of.
- Ben Rogers
Ben Rogers Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
Pete Schmitt Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Roy Lap Steel
Matt Rogers Drums, Vocals
Blind Willie McTell
Master Musicians of Bukkake