Stan Rogers,
From Coffee House to Concert Hall
(Fogarty's Cove, 1999)

From Coffee House to Concert Hall spans a decade of music from Stan Rogers. Taking recordings from CBC radio, concerts and out-takes from releases, the CD serves as a wonderful reminder of the music that was.

It is everything a collection of songs released well after the death of the artist should be. One, it spans his entire career, including songs recorded before his first release. And secondly, care was taken picking songs so that they would accurately show what his music was like. And there is not a single one of the 20 songs on here that I wish were not included. Instead I wish there were more.

I just want to leave it at that, and to tell you to go and pick up the CD and be prepared to listen to some amazing folk songs. Heh. That, of course, is not an option. I must explain the magic of Stan Rogers' music to you, and hope that I can find the words to explain it.

First there is the music. Excluding Rogers, there are 21 musicians who play on the CD, and all of them are good. In that mix are Steve Hayes (piano), Curly Boy Stubbs (second guitar), David Woodhead (electric bass, vocals), Garnet Rogers (vocals, fiddle and flute) and Jim Morison (bass). Other instruments used are the drums, percussion and dobro. And then there is Stan Rogers on his guitar, singing every song. Of course, there are several songs with nothing but Stan Rogers singing and playing the guitar.

Defining the sound of the songs is a bit trickier, though, as there are several different styles on the CD. You have the classic folk style in songs like "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her" and the modern folk style of "Guysborough Train." Then you also have a country and western song, "It All Fades Away." Whatever the style the music and the lyrics blend well.

And the songs he sang, they are all so good that I find it hard to pick out just a few of them. This is made even harder by the range that is covered in the lyrics. There are love songs, happy and sad; tales told of everyday life, forgotten heroes and ordinary people; and a few that a look at relationships and one farewell song.

First then, a couple of his love songs. "It All Fades Away" is a song about after the love is gone. It is immediately followed by "Love Letter," about love written from afar.

Then there are the stories he told us in his songs. "At Last, I'm Ready for Christmas" describes the goings around to get ready for the holiday. Stan's love of history came out in songs like "Billy Green," which tells part of the story of Billy Green and his involvement in the war of 1812. And then there is "The Puddler's Tale," a song about working in the steel mill.

"A Matter of Heart" was written for a CBC radio musical, and gives good advice of friendship and how to live. The last song on the CD, "Down the Road," was one of Stan Rogers' favourite closers, and as it ends you can hear him say thank you to the cheering crowds. It was recorded five days before he died in 1983.

So pick the CD up and listen to it. It is a great tribute to a Canadian folk legend.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

Buy From Coffee House to Concert Hall from