Garnet Rogers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Garnet Rogers

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Folksinger Garnet Rogers first made his mark as an instrumentalist: his dexterous stylings on guitar, flute, and violin ornamented the songs of his brother Stan, a Canadian folk legend who died in an airplane fire in 1983. Rogers's eponymous '84 debut on his own Snow Goose Songs label was a mix of traditional tunes and other people's songs--Sing Out! referred to him at the time as "Canada's greatest song finder"--but by the late 80s he'd begun to include originals in his sets, and these days he's an established singer-songwriter. The 2002 compilation All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers (Red House) emphasizes more recent work--the earliest cut, "Small Victory," is from 1990. The title song, from 1999's Sparrow's Wing, is a wedding benediction on which Rogers's filigree fingerpicking interweaves gracefully with Celtic-tinged fiddle, while his tough-tender baritone puts sinew into lines like "Give your love and never count the cost / Lose your heart and never call it lost." "Next Turn of the Wheel," also from Sparrow's Wing, transmutes images of loss--fishermen facing the end of their traditional way of life, a man brooding over his lost youth--into a moving, oddly optimistic meditation on the transience of love. In "Frankie & Johnny," from 1994's Summer Lightning, Rogers infuses macho mythology with scriptural references to create a Kerouac-style hero whose unfettered freedom ("He lived each day as though it was his last") carries a tragic price ("a senseless, random death"). The conviction Rogers imparts to the last stanza ("It's too late / By the grave / Give them all the love you have every day") gives it the force of fine literary fiction. Friday, September 19, 6:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

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