Nathan Rogers has been touring Ontario for the last two weeks, touring a concert program that will stop many listeners in their tracks: the music of Stan Rogers, performed by someone who sounds and looks a great deal like Stan. This isn’t entirely coincidence: Nathan is the son of Canadian folk music icon Stan Rogers, and is the same age as Stan when he died in a fire aboard Air Canada flight 797 in 1983. Nathan is in no way an impersonator, and at points through the evening it was clear that he was moved, as was everyone who attended concerts on the tour (in this case, at the Aultsville Theatre, in Cornwall, Ontario).
As Nathan started into every song you could close your eyes and feel you were hearing Stan’s baritone voice ringing through the auditorium. You didn’t want to keep your eyes closed, however, because it was nearly impossible to take your eyes off the skilled musicians, whose on-stage interaction was captivating. Between songs, Nathan often had the entire room in stitches with anecdotes about the music, at one point saying of the song 45 Years “this is a beautiful love song, and it’s a little strange singing it because it’s about my mom… but I just try to get over it.” Audience participation was invited (or “expected” as they were told), and it set the tone for the evening, which was exceptional in every respect, from music to laughter, and from well-told stories to the shivers from realizing everyone in the room was sharing an experience that is now part of the Rogers family legacy.
Nathan and his band have also brought some new arrangements to the pieces, which was essential to having the concert be more than four musicians doing what’s been done before. New harmonies, new instruments, and different vocal approaches have brought new life and a new take on some of the music that you won’t hear on the original recordings. At one point, Nathan added percussive vocals in the form of throat-chanting which proved very effective in putting Nathan’s own flavour into the music.
Joined on stage by Andrew Bryan (fiddle and vocals), JD Edwards (guitars, harmonica, and vocals), and the bass/vocals roles were split over the tour by Trevor Mills and David Woodhead, the arrangements came very naturally to the band, without having to sit down and work things out over weeks and weeks. As an ensemble, the blend and fit were exceptional, as if they’d been touring for quite some time. The music simply wouldn’t be complete without fiddle, and true to the original, Andrew began songs like Field Behind the Plow and The Mary Ellen Carter with melodies that are part of the Canadian folk canon. JD’s voice sits above Nathan’s, perfectly complimenting the vocals, and his harmonica and guitar work added a little bit of blues to the mix. Trevor Mills anchored the foursome on bass and with the clear harmonies and solid bass, rounded out the group perfectly.
David and Trevor each have an interesting direct connection to Stan Rogers. David recorded and toured with Stan early in his career, and Trevor’s father Paul (AKA Curly Boy Stubbs) is Stan’s long-time record producer (and recently produced the remastered versions of Stan Rogers’ catalogue). Although this was never mentioned on-stage in Cornwall, it’s clear that Nathan and Trevor each knew where the other was going musically, and it brought another layer to the evening.
Whether hearing this music again live after about three decades, or live for the first time, the evening was powerful and absolutely first-rate entertainment. This was a truly wonderful rekindling of the spirit ofStan, and a fitting tribute to the Rogers family legacy.
Owner, Wavelength Media
Wavelength Media maintains the Borealis Records website