Saturday, July 5, 2014

Garnet Rogers – Summer’s End

Summer’s End
Snow Goose Songs

Seven years on from his last album, and after years of thinking he was done with recording, Garnet Rogers has released Summer’s End, a collection of beautiful heartrending songs about memory, grief, hope and love.

The mood of the album is set with an opening instrumental, “The Road to Tobermory,” a lovely Celtic piece Garnet composed in memory of a close friend recently passed. Fingerpicked on a nylon string guitar, Garnet overdubs his own violin and flutes – the instruments I first heard him play years before I ever saw him with a guitar in hand – and glockenspiel.

It’s followed by “Old Campfires,” a poem set in winter that looks forward to the coming spring. It was written by Sidney Bushell, Garnet’s maternal grandfather, and set to music about 50 years ago by Garnet’s late older brother, Stan Rogers, when he was about 15. I’ve heard Stan sing some of the songs he made from lyrics by older relatives – but I don’t recall ever hearing this fine piece before. Later, near the end of the album, Garnet offers an exquisite version of Stan’s seldom-performed “Sailor’s Rest,” a portrait of an old seaman living in his memories.

A couple of songs, “The Sweet Spot” and “It’s a Gift,” are inspired by the small fishing village of Canso, Nova Scotia (which as I write on July 5 is experiencing tropical storm conditions from Hurricane Arthur) where his mother grew up and where Garnet and Stan spent their summers as kids. Garnet now owns an old house in Canso and “The Sweet Spot” describes waking up there on a summer morning. “It’s a Gift” describes a beautiful day in Canso. Both are love songs to the village and, ultimately, to Gail Parker Rogers, Garnet’s wife.

Among the other standouts are “Our Boy,” written about a Canadian Forces major and his mission in Afghanistan, and sung from the perspective of a loved one at home in Canada describing a recent visit home by the soldier; “Shadows on the Water,” a homage to the late, gifted but troubled singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey; and “Sleeping,” written for his father, Al Rogers, who recently passed away.

Mike Regenstreif & Garnet Rogers (2006)
As I mentioned, this is an album of songs about memory, grief, hope and love – all themes that come together in the two poignant title songs.

In “Summer’s End (1),” Garnet sings of sitting with his wife, at summer’s end, in what has been a time of loss and grief. Ultimately, there is hope found in the continuing circle of life, and in the desire to “to look a little further down the road and not just day to day. I know you’ll look out for me as I look out for you. And we’ll live in hope for better days, it’s the best that we can do.”

Later, in “Summer’s End (2),” Garnet is still reflecting on the grieving times he and Gail have been
through but images of summer ending and winter’s approach are also used to reiterate the hope and strength that comes through enduring love.

As a song cycle, Summer’s End is a quietly subdued tour de force. While most of the songs feature  Garnet by himself, there are also several songs that feature fine contributions from David Woodhead on bass and piano and one with co-producer Scott Merritt on vibes. It is – perhaps – Garnet’s finest
work to date.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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