The Sound Cafe
Northern Ireland's Lee Rogers Drops Long Awaited Second Album 'Gameblood'
Based in Carrickfergus, just north of Belfast, the music created by Lee Rogers sounds as resilient, gorgeous and scarred as his home turf looks. The sensual, resplendent songs contained on ‘Gameblood’, his long-awaited second album (his debut was in 2006), display an elegiac musical craftsmanship while showing off open-hearted, lyrical storytelling.
“My dad was a second generation settled Gypsy with black hair, swarthy skin and green eyes, like me,” states Rogers. “He had gold hoop earrings and old Indian-inked tattoos. He was as hard as the road he walked on but had the softest heart for us and my mother, who he loved unconditionally. He had a fighting spirit, and that’s what I believe ‘Gameblood’ means and is where the album title comes from.”
On this third official release (he also issued an EP entitled ‘Dark Notions’ in late 2021), Rogers comes across as a manly yet tender outcast with an honest musical solidarity to fellow wounded exile-pioneers who have experienced similar rocky relationships and existential pain.
The album’s first single, ‘Life and Lies’, is explained by Rogers as “a slightly cheeky, heartfelt ballad that everyone can relate to, about finding love and just a little light in the darkest places. Sometimes we just need to get ourselves to a place where we aren’t afraid to look.” Its excellent video was shot in a Belfast bar, which he adds was “the perfect setting. The fun part is I was genuinely drunk during the shooting, so there was little acting needed.” A stripped-back, acoustic version of the video will be available from 18th March, of which Americana UK states: "Over delicate but insistent guitar-work, Rogers delivers an outstanding vocal performance. Full of engaging melody and character, with controlled changes in volume, and just the right amount of grit, his voice gives the song authenticity and emotional resonance.” Recorded at Sycamore Studios with his regular band and produced by Gareth Dunlop (who also produced the recent EP), Rogers describes ‘Gameblood' as “a visit to those hard places that most people put to the back of their psyche and build a wall around. Love, lust, life, death, addiction and lots of spirits and ghosts moving around holding it all together. This album is a truer reflection of myself, my stories, where I’ve been and where I hope I am now. It’s music for the grown-up mind, those folk who have seen a bit of life, and can relate to the songs. Though I am hoping some of the kids love the vibe too!”
Rogers admits that he wasn’t in the greatest of places when he started writing the album, while its songs have themes of things hard to visit that he was at least able to harness and heal in the recording process. As an aching example,‘Uneasy Love’ was written “about travelling all over Australia with this beautiful woman who set me on lots of the better paths I took in life. She left the planet for her next journey a while back. I had a dream that I was in this old car I had out there, driving in the middle of nowhere and got excited when I looked round and saw her in the passenger seat, sun-bleached hair, tanned skin, bare feet on the dashboard. Then, she started glitching in and out of vision, like she was gonna disappear completely. I woke up, gutted, went to my studio with tears in my eyes and wrote the song.” Just as deeply felt, the romantic anthem ‘Everytime’ is about the love Rogers has for his wife Nikita, “the person who helps fix my mistakes, never judges and soothes me back to the human I am supposed to be. I can’t count how many times she has painstakingly put me back together, held me when I was falling apart and reasoned with me when I wasn’t seeing reason in anything. I know that if you find that person in your life, who calms your storms and puts out the fires, who helps you be what you are meant to be, then you’ll get every word of this song.” The tender, raw yet cinematically sophisticated instrumentation on ‘Gameblood’ is reminiscent of classic folk albums such as John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’, the soulful craft of Keb Mo’s ‘Blues Americana’ and the glistening if lacerating baroque balladry of Tom Waits' ‘Mule Variations’. Having worked as a tattoo artist for over a decade following the release of his debut album, the additional attention to human vulnerability and creative detail he has brought across from the skill set required in that industry has helped to set Rogers apart from most of his contemporaries.