|Chicago born vocalist Skylar Rogers followed the successful blueprint created nearly a century ago by Ma Rainey, the original queen of the blues, by gathering together great original material and a team of top-notch players as her backing band, as she barnstormed around the country spreading her vision of the blues. In the two years since her debut EP Rogers has dubbed her ensemble of musicians, “The Blue Diamonds,” giving the sound she creates with them the moniker “Soul Rockin’ Blues.“
Her new album, “Firebreather,” features ten new songs that reflect her life growing up in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods and the influence of music that flows across the region from St. Louis to Memphis over to Nashville and back up to the Windy City. Recorded at Sawhorse Studios in St. Louis south city Dutchtown neighborhood, known for retro indie rock production from Jason McIntyre, the sessions made good use of the muscular dual guitar attack from Stephen J Hill and Marty Gibson and the tight rhythm section of Jerry Ewing on bass and drummer “Disco Fuzz” Bradley Arl. The dexterous musicianship of keyboardist Pete Zimmer allows Rogers to stretch out and utilize her extensive dynamic range and full-throated contralto.
Rogers gives an account of how the obstinate part of her character leads to losing a lover while Hill echoes her words with a searing guitar lead on the album opener ‘Hard Headed Woman,’ laying down a heady blues rock foundation for things to come. She and the band seek redemption in the city of the blues on the driving track ‘Back To Memphis.’ Rogers boldly spells out how she is willing to labor for love on the organ driven funk blast ‘Work.’ A southern rock guitar riff and sassy vocals propel the album’s first single ‘Like Father Like Daughter,’ and its radio ready style. As Rogers sites Etta James and Koko Taylor among her heroes, it’s no surprise to hear their influence on the Chess Records styled ballad ‘Failure’ and its heartbreaking tone. The title track ‘Firebreather,’ is the cautionary tale based on the classic idiom of no fury being like that of a woman scorned, that may or may not be autobiographical.
Drummer Bradley Arl co-wrote two more tracks with Rogers for the set; the gospel infused stomp and shout singalong of hope and mercy, ‘Movin On,’ and the piano-driven passion play sonata ‘Drowning,’ bringing depth and richness to the production. Zimmer lays down thick Hammond B3 on the slow blues hymn ‘Thankful,’ supporting Rogers reflective lyrics and sensitive leads from Hill. The Motown flavored ‘Insecurities’ closes the album with a message of perseverance and determination to reach your dreams will win out in the end.
In a year full of challenges Skylar Rogers and her band of brothers, The Blue Diamonds, met those obstacles with fire, breathing life into this project, one they should be proud of for years to come.
Rick J Bowen
Skylar Rogers was born and raised in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. She learned at an early age that music brought people together. Music and faith were primary sources of strength and inspiration for Skylar through not only the bad times (abusive relationships, the stillbirth of her only child, and a brief period of homelessness following a divorce), but the best of times (meeting, dating and marrying her second husband, Mark.) ”I have learned that during these times, there was a song for every emotion.”
Skylar genuinely believes that “Music survives the worst and celebrates the best.” Skylar’s “Soul Rockin’ Blues” sound can be attributed to the artists who influenced her the most: Tina Turner, Koko Taylor, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, B.B. King, and Michael Jackson. She credits listening to these and others such as AC/DC and multiple Motown artists with influencing her and molding her into the strong, passionate, and energetic singer she is today.
Skylar began touring in 2019 and has shared a stage with Ms. Zeno “The Mojo Queen,” Tab Benoit, Annika Chambers, and Kevin Burt. She successfully launched her debut release, “Insecurities” in 2018, and with her band, The Blue Diamonds, brings a sound that has been often described as a “cross between Tina Turner and Etta James.”