ALBUM REVIEW: Benjamin Dakota Rogers Beckons With Fireside Tales on ‘Paint Horse’
These days, the word “authentic” gets thrown around with such frequency, it can ring empty. But it is fitting when describing Benjamin Dakota Rogers, whose new album, Paint Horse, is a collection of genuine folk songs with none of the put-ons and all the experience to back it up.
Written while Rogers was living in a barn on his folks’ retired tobacco farm in Ontario, foraging by day and gathering stories from multiple generations of family members by night, Paint Horse listens like a lovingly worn book of passed-down tales best told in the glow of a crackling fire. The warm solitude in Rogers’ sweet rasp, and the frills-free acoustic guitar and fiddle arrangements, create the kind of intimate sound that pulls you nearer.
Rogers is a master of character building: There’s the foreboding hulk at the center of “Jeremiah,” the troubled heroine of the haunting “Rosie,” the lonely road warrior wanting somewhere to call home in standout “Greyhound,” the deceitful runaway bride of “Eloise,” and the wronged John who sets his sights on vengeance in the murder ballad “John Came Home.”
Rogers spares no details, setting his scenes with cinematic fixtures — the comforting cover of a big, starry sky, the ashes of a widower’s late wife carried around in Tupperware, the ghostly white dress of a free-spirited woman. He even recorded some of Paint Horse in that barn he was living in, lending a particular hominess to his songs, even as they envelop you in vivid worlds of vast prairies and towering mountains, of deep longing and cutthroat revenge.
Whether in his larger-than-life narratives or his sparser, more personal ones, Rogers captures the push-and-pull life of a troubadour, of wanting to set down roots but also to explore and see the world. With Paint Horse, Rogers manages to carve out a space for himself somewhere in between, forever toeing the line dividing past and present.
Benjamin Dakota Rogers’ Paint Horse is out Feb. 17 via Good People Record Co.