Jasmine Rodgers, daughter of rock singer, Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company and Queen), released her debut album, Blood Red Sun, on Friday, October 28. Speaking of Bad Company, Jasmine is currently doing a stadium tour with her father.
Aided by the fact her mother is also a Japanese poet, Jasmine has a “gift of narrative storytelling”. Although her debut album, she has already recorded an EP, plus two collaborative albums with brother, Steve Rodgers, under the guise of Boa.
Title track, “Blood Red Sun”, kicks off proceedings, and has jovially plucked guitar, a certain kind of Spanish flavour. The vocals begin spoken, but grow more tuneful. Midway there’s a brief hint of Eastern vibe, before a hint of English accent tells otherwise. The guitar work almost picks up to manic speed, a background noise behind it lending the track a grave immediacy. Then the vocals pick up, impassioned, before the song’s almost abrupt end.
Then you’re “Taken”, which has an eerie, quite creepy, delivery, like telling tall tales to children and scaring them with the sinister detail. A horror story untrue. The track ends very much before it’s even began, a short interlude.
The strains of “Let It Burn” are of a similar nature but even shorter. There’s also the brevity of “Icicles”, which has a rustic vibe to it, quite epic with the boom of the bass drum. It’s longer than the previous two tracks, but not by a much noticeable difference.
Jasmine then wants to “Follow You”. It has strings to aid the voice and guitar, giving it quite a grand feel in the production stakes. Grand production tolling the bell to begin an epic story. It feels as if to evoke a barren landscape, living a hand to mouth existence. It’s also wistful, perhaps a struggling farmer writing a love letter to their other half on the other side of the country, maybe even the world.
First cameo track, “Between Spaces”, features Hotei Tomoyasu, and picks up the pace, as if to be on the run, backing vocals also adding an element of sorrow. Like running away from a cotton plantation, or something. The aforementioned barren landscape perhaps the result of this departure, the prequel to the previous track. Excellent sense of story.
Jasmine then finds “Sense”, which’s quite a rousing one. Maybe perhaps some have escaped the plantation successfully. This feels to be confirmed the case when the bass kicks in, an element of instrumentation not really utilised until now. Pounding bass drum, aided with badass, wild west guitar, aids this feel of an outright outlaw anthem with its excellent dynamics.
Second cameo track, “Underwater”, features Scott Matthews, and has a slight ringing quality to the guitar, as if an acoustic played, indeed, underwater. “Take me from the water’s edge” hinting, like “open my heart and let the blood run through”, at a direct narrative to take stock from and interpret.
Backing vocals help steer the track in a different direction, like perilous routes through certain rivers and waterways. Perhaps underwater, now that feet firmly on a boat, or raft, have now slipped underwater.
You then travel to the “Milky Way”, which’s earnest, contemplative and quite cheery. It does have a slight melancholy to it, though. She really takes charge with the vocals in this one, the singing seemingly bolder than before. A short one, again, but slightly longer than some of the other intermissions.
“Shaping Up To Be” is another reasonably positive one, though “time has taken everything” suggesting perhaps a hint of regret. Come the midpoint, things pick up, so many layers to contemplate and appreciate. Although more authoritative of late on this album, her voice truly soars in this one. Kind of the ballsy power her father, Paul, of Free, Bad Company and, latterly, Queen fame, is known for.
To end things, Jasmine watches “While You Lay Sleeping”, and is beautiful in a way, in a way only a song titled as thus could be. This is brief, as in the case most instances of true happiness are.
Looking back on what you could feasibly call an adventure, there are a series of tracks that make for entertaining listening. These are roving, evocative of a certain place and time. These tracks are “Follow You”, “Between Spaces”, “Sense” and “Underwater”.
The first one, as said, evokes a barren landscape, roughly at the times of the original forefathers, the pilgrims in the States. Slavery, and so on, too. Farming being the occupation coming to mind, it seems ironic living a hand to mouth life as how you live and how you earn money are determined by a rather unfortunate way to try and eke out an existence. Love letters to a far flung lover the only respite.
Come “Between Spaces”, this reviewer sensed a prequel playing out. Perhaps the aforementioned farmer had escaped, on the run, from a plantation of some sorts, but was damned in relocating to such a bleak place not conducive to farming. On the other hand, it’s all they can muster from their surroundings. It’s either that or death. Engrossing sense of story.
“Sense” confirms, perhaps, that the escape was successful. The introduction of rarely used bass guitar thumps, heralding outlaw renegade guitar. You’re in the wild west, now. There’s a sense of triumph, maybe not quite realising that freedom will be tempered by how tough life will be on the frontier, despite becoming self-sufficient instead of enforced labour.
Then “Underwater” brings an end to the story arc, like perilous routes through certain rivers and waterways. Maybe on a boat, or raft, and that someone has submerged underwater. Is this the price of eluding capture, post escaping the plantation? The rush to blend in with the bulrush, as you travel by raft to safety, maybe plunges you underwater. New to farming, days as a slave meaning you can’t swim…
There are also a couple of tracks, outwith this story arc, which merit a mention, too. These are “Milky Way” and “Shaping Up To Be”. The former’s a departure from the quite tense four aforementioned tracks, cheery in its general disposition. Its other plus point is that, come to think of it, it’s the first time her voice is truly emboldened with some power, no longer a tad dainty.
This is very much continued in the latter, so it’s not just its multiple instrumental layers to contemplate. Like father, like daughter, it’s certainly no exaggeration to compare her ballsy power to that of her father, Paul, of, as said, Free, Bad Company and, latterly, Queen fame. It truly soars, far from much of the delicate musings in a good chunk of the album’s duration.
Yet there’s more. Think album closer, “While You Lay Sleeping”. Its brevity seems to convey that, as happy as the track is, most instances of true happiness are, indeed, short. This feels like a reference to that four song story arc. Basically, you evade slavery only to drown. Happy ever afters are guaranteed mostly through Hollywood, not every town is Tinseltown.
Then, regarding that couplet of tracks following said quadrilogy, that voice piping up out of the blue, you hear that, perhaps, not everyone is as they seem. They, however meek and unsuspecting, will pipe up to betray the preconceptions that others have of them if, say, they were backed into a corner. The quiet start riots, kind of thing.
Generally speaking, there’s only so much you can do with an acoustic guitar, the range for dynamics being much more limited than for a whole live band situation. However, Jasmine Rodgers, and her ability to tell a story and evoke landscapes via soundscapes, knows no bounds. Jasmine Rodgers’ Blood Red Sun can be heard on iTunes here.
Words by Andrew Watson