Think about the live albums you’ve loved over the years.
Being a Who fan, Live at Leeds was huge for me. But I never felt like I was at Leeds, and like almost every guy I know, I played air guitar like a 16 year old Rick Nielsen with Cheap Trick on Surrender, but I never felt like it transported me to Budokan.
And here we are in this age of streaming and social media. Everyone lives in their phones it’s even harder to find a listening experience that comes close to recreating the intimacy of a live music performance. Even the most fancy-ass earbuds can’t recreate the experience of music preformed live. It’s just not possible.
But holy cow, Live & Listening the fantastic new album by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers comes pretty damn close and that’s saying something. Recorded for the most part at the newly opened and already beloved 443 Social Club & Lounge in Syracuse, It’s an album that makes the listener feel like they are part of the party, and maybe more importantly want to be there for the next one. I sure will be.
Maybe it’s the way Rodgers songs and stories seem to resonate with parts of the human experience we can all identify with, like in the infectiously catchy sing along Shoulda Coulda, a sneaky little song that delivers a call to action, a call to stop counting your regrets and start celebrating your satisfactions within it’s humorously catchy lyrics.
And speaking of calls to action in these deeply divided times, How Long ’til It’s Too Late is Rodgers’ bluesy lament on the state of personal communication these days among the din of political diatribes delivered behind the distance of internet communication replacing face to face interaction. A cautionary tale delivered with an absolutely ripping guitar solo.
Any Other Way is a catchy tale of a conflict between domesticity and independence worthy of John Cheever that features infectious backing vocals by Wendy Sassafras Ramsay. Ramsay’s harmonies are the perfect spice to Rodgers’ vocal sweetness. Throughout the work, when their voices join, it takes the music to a different emotional level.
Similarly, Ramsay provides more beautiful vocal harmony on Write Again, a wistful song, co-written by Jack O. Bocchino about the seemingly lost pleasure to be found in putting an actual pen to actual paper to write a letter that while it may travel miles to get there holds more human interaction than e-mail could ever do.
Josh Dekaney’s drums provide the toe tapping back beat as well as a tasty little drum solo on the jitterbug-jammy Sycamore Tree a song where all the players were able to stretch out a little bit.
Jason Fridley takes off the bass and plays some jazzy sax on a couple tracks like the groovy album closer Only The Soul.
There is something about Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ voice that sounds like he’s singing only to you. The musicians he surrounds himself with create a unique musical alchemy that supports Rodgers’ vision of the songs and one another. There is something impressive about a group of musicians who lift the music together like this group does, it creates an intimacy for the recording that many, hell, most live albums try to do but can’t quite accomplish. Credit for this should also go to the 443, the venue, just a year old now, has filled a dearly needed hole in Syracuse’s musical landscape. A small room that is perfectly cozy for the perfectly personal music of Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers. This is people music.
I have to admit, as much as I travel around in the Syracuse music scene, somehow I haven’t gotten to see Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers play in any of his various performance configurations. Based on hearing Live and Listening, I intend to do so the next chance I get. No more should coulda for me.
You can find out more about Jeffrey at https://jeffreypepperrodgers.com
Live and Listening can be found wherever you buy music.
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