Garnet Rogers; September 19, 2009; Café Carpe
Garnet Rogers has a lot of guitars. He had six with him, plus a funny little twelve string electric mando-guitar and one of those fake looking Yamaha electric. This could have been annoying, but he switched between them easily, talking all the time so that I barely noticed. The endearing part is that he admits he has a problem- he said he had to resist the urge to bring more with him and despite having a house full of them had bought another one today. Three of his guitars are vintage Gibson acoustic guitars dating from World War II when all the men were off at war and women built all the guitars.
The fact that he gravitates toward these guitars isn’t surprising. A towering Canadian with a booming baritone voice, he’s surprisingly soft spoken and sensitive. It was the voice that convinced me to join Darlene and Denice tonight. Telling me that Garnet was her absolute favorite, Darlene lent me a CD in an attempt to convince me to come along with them. The songs didn’t necessarily knock my socks off, but that voice did. “Have you heard Dave Alvin?” I asked her at the start of the second set. When she responded that she hadn’t, I explained that he reminded me of him. I don’t think he possibly could have heard me, but two songs into the set he announced he was going to play a Dave Alvin song. Kismet?
I didn’t know the song, but I did enjoy it, as I did much of the set. It wasn’t until the end of the night when he played the song that they had told (warned?) me about that I started to lose interest. Garnet’s brother Stan had also been a singer and a songwriter, and he began his career in Stan’s band. He was killed in a car accident in 1983, and ever since then people have been asking him to play his songs. Given the emotional heft of his music he had resisted for years, but recently he has been joining one of his songs “Night Drive” to one of Stan’s. What results is something approaching ten minutes, though it felt longer, and I was fighting to stay awake.
If he hadn’t already won me over, his final song of the night would have done it in spades. Admitting that although it wasn’t really a love song, it was a song that was popular around the time he and his wife were dating and they consider it theirs. I recognized Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet” from the opening notes, and couldn’t quite believe my ears. It definitely isn’t a love song, but it is probably one of the ten best songs ever written, and definitely one of the more subtly heart-breaking ones. Well chosen Garnet, well chosen indeed.
Bill Camplin giving the introduction