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Show review: Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers, Greenfield, MA

Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers
St. James Coffeehouse, St. James Church, Greenfield, MA
April 09, 2011

It was quite a sight to see Scottish guitarist and singer Archie Fisher and Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Garnet Rogers surrounded by angels and singing from the pulpit of the ornate St. James Church in Greenfield, MA. It was not just that these two are more often found playing smoked filled rooms where the cussing and drinking offstage is only slightly more plentiful than it is onstage. No, the joy and surprise stemmed from the knowledge that this was the first Fisher and Rogers tour since 1986.

Saturday evening found the pair on the early leg of the tour, shaking out the cobwebs, and genuinely having a good time. The casually dressed Fisher began the evening with a pair of old favorites; “Bonnie Border Lass,” an ode to his Scottish country home and the lovely “Mary Ann.” Rogers was dressed in his Sunday best suit and sat next to a rack of five guitars and a large harp guitar. “Garnet is more promiscuous than, I when it comes to guitars,” quipped Fisher.

Rogers launched into an energized performance of his gorgeous “Soul Kiss” from the 1997 Shinning Thing release. He followed it with a hilarious new song “Welcome to Hell,” which was a Woody Guthrie-style, talking blues that name checked media moguls, politicians, and the occasional pop and folk singer who all have earned a place “down below”.

The two continued the evening in this fashion, each taking turns playing songs, with the other lending occasional accompaniment and backing vocals. Fisher contributed a song about a Newfoundland crofter “Carl Mackenzie,” a new ballad about a shapeshifter, and his classic “Coshieville.” Rogers also reprised his striking rendition of Bob Franke’s “Thanksgiving Eve.” One of the surprise highlights of the evening was when Rogers put aside his guitar and picked up his laptop. For years he has alluded to wanting to write a memoir of his many travels, adventures, and misadventures touring with his brother, the late great Stan Rogers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rogers read excerpts from this yet-to-be published tome during both sets. His prose was both poignant and riotously, self-effacingly funny.

After an extended break for coffee and sweets fortification, the duo returned for another superb set. Fisher regaled the crowd with more stories and his warm presence, and played several more songs from his newest album Windward Away, including “Ontario Dust,” “Shepherd on the Hill,” and his ode to his favorite horse Sunny in “Rise Through the Rainbow.” Rogers played a longingly beautiful instrumental on his mighty harp guitar, as well as his epic story-song “Sleeping Buffalo.” Rogers also added some exquisite fiddle to Fisher’s “The Broom A’ The Cowdenknowes,” and “Speak Your Name.”

The set ended with the special treat of Fisher and Rogers trading verses on “The Final Trawl,” and Stan Rogers’ “Make or Break Harbour.” Encores brought a stunning version of “The Outside Track” from Rogers, while Fisher closed the evening with “All That You Ask Me.”

It was wonderful to see Fisher and Rogers touring together again, and one suspects their arrangements deepened and became even better as the tour progressed. At the break Fisher alluded to a possible new studio recording in the works, which would mark the duo’s first recorded collaboration since the 1985 live LP Off the Map.

─Lahri Bond (Lake Pleasant, MA)

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