Thursday, December 16, 2010

Robin Rogers "Back In The Fire"

(Note: The review following appeared on the yahoo group "Match Box Blues." I am re-printing it here because I couldn't write it up any better. Thanks Rick. The day after I posted this review Robin died. RIP Robin.)

by Rick Harmon

Robin Rogers new album for blues label Blind Pig records could not be a more bittersweet triumph. The recording is beautiful, powerful and probably the last she will ever record.

"Back in the Fire" is the follow up to "Treat Me Right," the 55-year-old singer's first recording on Blind Pig, which when it was released two years ago gave the performer her first smash hit in a professional music career that began in Miami in 1979.

She gave a wonderful performance in Montgomery a few months after her album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard blues charts, where it remained for years. At the time she made it clear that while the newfound success was wonderful, she considered her true success freeing herself of a drug and alcohol habit that had once plagued her.

With the help of Tony Rogers, her musical partner and husband, she thought she had put those years behind her. But just months ago she was diagnosed with liver cancer, a complication of the hepatitis-C she contracted in the 1970s. The cancer is untreatable, and she is not a candidate for a transplant.

"Back in the Fire" is an even stronger recording than her first. It combines lyrics that represent a life full of hard lessons and courage but manage never to be preachy. The production is lower key than on her last album, reminding you less of a painstakingly recorded studio album than a stunning live performance.

Whether singing about others' mistakes ("Baby Bye-Bye) or her own ("I Know I Done Wrong") she sings with the sort of sultry experience that one associates with the great torch singers of old.

There are also deeper and sometimes more painful songs such as "What We Are Worth," which sums up some of the wisdom she has fought so hard to gain, and "Don't Walk Away Run," a warning to domestic violence victims to leave while they can.

Throw in some gorgeous covers - Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad," Allen Toussaint's "Hittin' On Nothin'," a well-known Irma Thomas standard, and the Big Maybelle song "Ocean of Tears," -- some nice instrumentals from pianist Mark Stallings, guitarist Tony Rogers and a guest appearance by Bob Margolin to Tony Rogers on guitar -- and "Back in the Fire" is a passionate, powerful tour-de-force.


Blind Pig recording artist Robin Rogers has been diagnosed with liver cancer. She was hospitalized for complications caused by Hepatitis C, and a CT scan prior to surgery revealed an untreatable cancerous tumor on her liver. She is not a candidate for a liver transplant so she has been sent home for hospice care.

There has been a major outpouring of support and care since the announcement of the hospitalization by her husband Tony on Robin's Facebook page. Announcements were made of the establishment of a Robin Rogers Medical Trust Fund to cover medical expenses.

However, while this fund will help with astronomical hospital and medical bills, it does not cover other expenses such as hospice care and basic living expenses. Robin will not be able to return to the stage, and Tony, her musical partner, will be out of work for the foreseeable future. Like most musicians, Robin and Tony do not have health insurance and depend on touring income for their livelihood. Expenses for hospice care, medicine, and everyday living will be extremely high.

Fans who are interested in providing help directly to the family can donate by sending a check (made out to Tony Rogers) to: Robin Rogers c/o Piedmont Talent Agency, P.O. Box 680006, Charlotte, NC 28216. In addition, the Charlotte Blues Society has set up a PayPal account, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Robin. PayPal donations can be made on the PayPal webpage.

Fans can also help by purchasing CDs from her website, Benefits and fundraising efforts are also being organized, and fans can follow developments on a newly created Facebook page: Robin Rogers Benefit Central.

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