LEE ROGERS – Gameblood (Zenith Café/Membran)

GamebloodBased in Carrickfergus, Gameblood is Rogers’ second album, one that comes sixteen years after his debut, having pursued a  career as an award-winning tattoo artist in the interim. Produced and featuring guitar and keys by Gareth Dunlop with Rogers on guitar accompanied by bass, drums and pedal steel, it draws on his own life experiences to craft a soulful Americana sound that embraces blues, folk and rock influences set to catchy melodies and hooks.  Former single, written about his wife, ‘Everytime’ kicks it off in radio friendly, Celtic-infused folk-rocker vein, slowing it down for ‘Silent Song’ about having to get lost to find yourself while the stadium friendly softly sung ‘Uneasy Love’ charts a low key, shimmery Springsteenesque vibe with a massive swelling hook.

Harking back to the 70s with a synth underlay, ‘The House’ waltzingly sways with echoes of Jackie Leven at his most accessible, ‘Life And Lies’ returning to twilight time blue collar balladry with a twang to the guitar and traces of the younger Van Morrison, sporting the great line about drinking whiskey “so we both taste the same”.

A number about the hold an ex-lover can have on you, ‘Haunted’ with its steady drum drive again evokes 70s rock, a hint of Dire Straits mingling with perhaps shades of Chris Rea, ‘Homeward Bound’ being a husky-voiced, synth coloured ballad that briefly breaks into a growl of electric guitars before subsiding back to the moodier textures, the album’s more laid back side captured in the bluesy ‘Won’t Find Me’ with shimmers of percussion and another evocation of Morrison filtered with a splash of John Martyn.

The penultimate ‘Fools Gold’ is back in bubbling, chugging soulful pop mood with the husky voice poured like a smooth bourbon, the album ending with him joined by Foy Vance for the knockout Celtic Springsteen-like reflective benediction balladeering ‘Barefoot In The Basement’ (“I hope, you’ll see a million faces, whenever you look beyond the shroud/Heaven is a million different places”) with its pedal steel colours, hummed backing vocals and understated anthemic folk framework. Tough and tender, informed by hard places visited and scars worn but equally beating with compassion and a sense of hope and survival in its fighting spirit. An album that grows on you the more you listen, like his tattoos it’s written in indelible musical ink.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.leerogers.co.uk

‘The House’ – official video:

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