Pleasure and Pain
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This San Francisco guitarist’s album rolls along just fine — good songs, nice slide-playing — until a horribly familiar voice unloads itself in the middle of "You Can’t Stop Now." It can’t be. Is that … Sammy Hagar? The singer Van Halen dumped? The anthem screecher from the ’80s?
Sadly, yes. Hagar is the only thing wrong with Pleasure and Pain. Although Rogers isn’t the world’s best blues singer, his voice has an inviting Dr. John/Leon Redbone quality, and his songwriting grows tighter and more vivid with every release. The fast songs really bounce, especially the opening "Down Here in the Real Big Empty" and the well-written "Gertie Ruth," about a woman who "lives her life in a mercenary territory."
A performer has to be careful when doing fast-paced, funky songs with the slide guitar. A little ingenuity, and he’s the next Sonny Landreth. A little lack of inspiration, and he’s Mountain. Though he treads dangerously close to the line on "Maybe Not," which recalls the blooze-rock world of ’70s FM radio, he uses a country fiddle to turn "Down at Josephine’s" into a bluesy honky-tonker.
Rogers’ vocal limitations mean he can’t turn the repetitive "My Lost Home in Your Arms" into a soulful ballad — but have some dignity, man, the solution isn’t Sammy Hagar.
— Steve Knopper