Roy Rogers’ “Into the Wild Blue” is another quality release from a man who has flown under the radar as one of the most acclaimed slide guitarists since the mid-70s.
Roy Rogers was born in Redding, California, in 1950 and spent his formative years playing in cover bands filled with Chuck Berry and Little Richard tunes and traveling to San Francisco to catch blues musicians filling the Bay Area clubs.
Through practice and persistence, he turned into a deft slide guitar player and began touring in various bands throughout the ’70s until 1980, when he started his own esteemed band, the Delta Rhythm Kings. He has garnered critical acclaim for his work with his own band, in addition to Norton Buffalo, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker (which he won a Grammy for producing Hooker’s song “The Healer”) and Ray Manzarek, among others. His slide work also has been included in numerous movie and television soundtracks and he has been nominated for a handful of Grammys.
One reason Rogers has been able to travel in such good company is that his playing style benefits the song instead of detracting from it. He doesn’t overpower the songs with his virtuosity, such as on the fun “Losin’ You,” which Rogers steers with steady neck work that is loose enough to let the organ and melody find their spot in the song. On the instrumental title track, Rogers weaves beautifully resonant sections over the wafting groove, but the focal point of the song is the way the harp flourishes glide over the piano. Rogers is good enough to know that he doesn’t need to sign off on every track with bold lettering.
The best track on the album, “Don’t You Let Them Win,” exemplifies Rogers’ under-the-radar approach to his playing the best. The song bounces like a bayou-tinged Grateful Dead jam that creates a wonderfully warm atmosphere. The song is a cohesive mix of organ, guitar and drums that feels egalitarian, but after repeat listens you realize Rogers’ subtlety funky licks are what give the track character.
Rogers does lay down a couple of numbers that seem as if they were made specifically into vehicles for his slide talent to shine. “Last Go-Round” sprints out the gate as a roadhouse burner under Rogers’ command and the instrumental “Dackin’” is a funky little groove that he skips along the frets to. He showcases a clean and smooth style that even when it is front and center never tries to attract too much of the spotlight.
Rogers may never get the fame that some of the contemporaries have received, but “Into the Wild Blue” shows fame isn’t what he is about. He is about doing what he can to put out musically sound albums, and that certainly deserves some attention.
- Roy Rogers
“Into the Wild”
Notable Tracks: “Don’t You Let Them Win,” “Losin’ You”
Release: June 2, 2015
Label: Chops Not Chaps Records