Review by John Taylor
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 left America’s second city in ruins. Now, 150 years later, Skylar Rogers — whose soul might’ve been forged in those flames – is setting the blues world ablaze with her first full-length album, “Firebreather.”
Trust us, this native Chicagoan’s self-described “soul-rockin’” blues really smoke.
Citing Tina Turner, Etta James, Billy Joel, Koko Taylor and even AC/DC as influences, Rogers sets off a powerful collection of original songs fueled by her upbringing in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. Her band, the Blue Diamonds — guitarists Stephen J. Hill and Marty Gibson, bassist Jerry Ewing, keyboardist Pete Zimmer and drummer Bradley Arl – brings some serious muscle to the room, but Rogers’ sinewy voice holds its own.
From the rock-driven title cut to the rock-solid “Hard-Headed Woman,” the groove of “Back to Memphis” and the house-rockin’ “Like Father Like Daugher,” the music is convincing, authentic and original. Rogers wrote or co-wrote all of it, with the help of Arl, her drummer.
She draws lyrics from pain she’s endured in her own life. A few highlights:
— “Gonna get lost in the music until my soul is finally free,” she vows in “Back to Memphis.” “I’ll let Memphis heal my broken heart one note at a time.”
— In “Like Father Like Daughter,” she describes how the student has become the teacher: “You taught me how to say bye-bye, how to walk away, how to sweep it all under the rug and hope that it don’t come back to bite you someday.”
— And on “Insecurities,” she offers tender advice to people struggling with self-images on confidence.
Themes of strength and inspiration are run throughout the album. Rogers’ music and faith have clearly guided her through miles of good – and not so good – times.
“Music,” she says “survives the worst, and celebrates the best.”
“Firebreather,” recorded at Sawhorse Studios in St. Louis, follows Rogers’ 2019 debut EP, “Insecurities” and her first national tour. As national health restrictions allow, she plans to tour more this year.
Let’s hope that means she’ll be heading out our way. We could use some warmin’ up around here.
Meantime, keep this album handy. You’re gonna want to listen to it again and again.
Total Time: 39:00
Hard-Headed Woman / Back to Memphis / Work / Like Father Like Daughter / Failure / Firebreather / Movin’ On / Drowning / Thankful / Insecurities