Ben Rogers arrives in the UK this month to commence his UK and European tour to promote his debut EP The Bums of Easy Street Part 1. After hearing about Ben and delving into what he was all about I found myself liking the man more and more.
Ben has an unmistakeable timbre of a voice, not that disimilar to Bob Dylan, he has the stage presence to carry it off as well. His world is of the past, he songs are of the past and he is certainly in no hurry to catch up…I don’t blame him!
He seems to have been led by similar influences (Woody guthrie) that inspired Dylan to take that eventful and well-fated journey to greenwich Village. Ben, like young Dylan has some incredible stories to re-tell including one about his Great Grandfather he was told at the age of eight that would leave a lasting impression on anyone:
My great-great granduncle, George Rogers, was on a hunting trip in eastern Kansas with a friend in the winter of 1875. After trailing and driving deer for five days they still hadn’t fired a single shot. But while canoeing down the Wakarusa River George spotted something hopeful through the brush along the riverbank. He took aim and fired. It was a good, clean shot and through the slow clearing smoke, he could see the foliage shake and spread beneath weight of the kill. He and his partner paddled ashore hurriedly to collect their prize but as they drew near, their minds filled with horror at the sight they beheld. A young squaw no more than sixteen, lay drenched in blood, slain by the bullet from George’s rifle. He had fatefully mistaken her buckskin garments for that of a living deer and shot her through the heart, killing her instantly. What he did not know then was that his victim was the princess of the Osage Indian tribe. When the tribesmen finally tracked him down he was presented before the entire village, stripped, and then skinned alive.
When my grandfather told me that story, he concluded by saying: “Always know what you’re after, otherwise you might end up dead.”
Whether that story is true or not is irrelevant. What is true is that he is a restless soul drawn to the life of a free spirit. A travelling trobadour.
I went to art school and dropped out then tried my hand at film school only to drop out of that too. I never learned much of anything in either of those places. I guess it’s because my true teachers are people whose wisdom is unfettered and free, people who have stories to tell, people like my grandfather.
I can still remember reading Woody Guthrie’s auto-biography Bound for Glory myself, it certainly made an influence on me, just a shame I didn’t sing or play guitar at the time! Running this radio station is a lot less painful, believe me. Ben’s Guthrie encounter was a more successful one:
I can still remember the first time I heard Woody Guthrie. There was a power outage in the neighborhood and the only thing I could do was read Hemingway by candlelight and listen to my battery-powered radio. I turned it on and Tom Joad was playing. I put Hemingway down almost immediately. I had read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath so I was familiar with the story but something in the way Woody sang it made my hair stand up and my skin get goose pimples. I bought his Dust Bowl Ballads album the following day and listening to it made me feel like I was someplace else. His songs are impeccably simple and poignant, archaic but everlasting. Nothing in his collection of work can be tied to the candied pandemonium of most contemporary music; pitch-shifted musclemen and midriff-bearing demi-divas.
Everyone always asks me why I always write about the past or set my stories in the past. Truth is, I can’t relate to anything today: computers, television, even the wars we’re fighting. It’s like I always say: “Out with the new, in with the old.” That’s not to say I’m oblivious, I’m just not finished with the past and I’m in no hurry to catch up. I’m wandering along dormant railroads strangled by tall weeds in the time of cowboys and Indians. I’m lost somewhere along the Wakarusa River, but instead of a rifle in my hands, I got a ’63 Gibson guitar and aside from a few cuts and scrapes, I still have most of my skin to speak of.
After performing on the streets of Los Angeles, he was noticed by record producer Max Martin (James Blunt) and was subsequently signed to his publishing company, Maratone. Rogers will be touring the UK, Amsterdam, and Berlin this fall in support of his debut EP, The Bums of Easy Street Part 1.
This track is up for grabs and is a cover of an At The Drive-In song called Invalid Litter Dept. about thousands of missing women in Juarez, Mexico.
MP3: Invalid Litter Dept.
[audio:http://www.box.net/shared/static/62i29gz1vo.mp3|titles=Invalid Litter Dept.|artists=Ben Rogers]
UK Tour Dates:
30 Oct 2010 Off the Shelf Literary Festival with The Fugitives Sheffield,
31 Oct 2010 Bluebelle Inn Hempstead,
1 Nov 2010 The Punter with The Fugitives (as part of ‘CB1 Poetry) Cambridge,
2 Nov 2010 New Walk Museum with The Fugitives Leicester,
2 Nov 2010 The Y Theatre (as part of ‘Word’) with The Fugitives Leicester,
3 Nov 2010 The Old Police Station (as part of ‘Wicked Words’) with The Fugitives Leeds,
4 Nov 2010 Komedia (as part of ‘Hammer & Tongue) with The Fugitives Brighton,
5 Nov 2010 Passing Clouds with The Fugitives London,
7 Nov 2010 Waiting Room Eaglescliffe,
8 Nov 2010 Green Note Café (part of ‘Hammer & Tongue’) with The Fugitives London,
9 Nov 2010 Dylan Thomas Centre with The Fugitives Swansea, W Glam,
10 Nov 2010 Café Tarifa (part of ‘Hammer & Tongue’) with The Fugitives Oxford,
11 Nov 2010 Roebuck (part of ‘Bang Said the Gun’) with The Fugitives London,
12 Nov 2010 Folkestone Literature Festival with The Fugitives Folkestone,