Carmen Rodgers - Stargazer (2015)

Carmen Rodgers
carmen-stargazer-album.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

One virtue of being an indie artist is that performers can create their own musical world. That goes a long way toward compensating for the challenges and frustrations confronted by those not attached to a major label. On Stargazer, the third studio album by Mississippi born and Dallas raised soul singer Carmen Rodgers, she creates a work that sports plenty of hummable melodies, as well as a few head nodding beats. And she opens up to listeners an interesting, musically varied world of an artist hitting her stride.

One virtue of being an indie artist is that performers can create their own musical world. That goes a long way toward compensating for the challenges and frustrations confronted by those not attached to a major label. On Stargazer, the third studio album by Mississippi born and Dallas raised soul singer Carmen Rodgers, she creates a work that sports plenty of hummable melodies, as well as a few head nodding beats. And she opens up to listeners an interesting, musically varied world of an artist hitting her stride.

Carmen Rodgers’ influences include soul music royalty such as Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, but she also counts singer songwriters such as James Taylor as influences. The reasons that those 70s era acoustic artists serve as models are because of their lyricism, as well as their focus on melody. And those influences come through in their own way on Stargazer. Lyric and melody merge on tracks such as “Camille Leon,” a mid-tempo pop/funk joint in which the play on words namesake character seeks to change her fate and fortune by chasing Hollywood dreams. Far from home, she shakes off the identity she carried in her previous life, but of course, the identity that Camille assumes has been luring naïve people with dreams of stardom for years.

Nobody will call Rodgers beat-a-phobic after hearing “Heartless,” a track that fuses a bit of old school scratching with the programmed drums that are a mainstay in contemporary R&B and hip-hop. The cut is actually a nuanced piece of counter programming as Rodgers tries to apologize for her mistakes while making it clear that there is a time limit on her remorse. “Make up your mind/You need to let me know/You’re running out of time/You need to let me know.”

The breezy “Beyond the Stage,” sports a smooth, melodic bass line that could fit nicely on a skating rink circa 1978 or at a steppers set held in Chicago on Valentine’ Day. Lyrically, Rodgers’ use of musical and literary metaphors to express the connection that she feels with her man shows that she might count Smokey as a lyrical hero. “I wrote a different story, but the pages turn to you/You waited for an encore that’s been too long overdue.”

Rodgers’ love of melody comes through most clearly on ballads such as “Stay,” “Patience” and her duet with Anthony David, “Charge.” The torchy ballad “Stay” features dramatic and melodic harmonies along with Rodgers achingly vulnerable vocal delivery of lyrical narrative to a woman dispensing with the principled stance she held in “Heartless.” “Patience” is an outside-looking-in story with Rodgers being the third party. It tells the story of a woman who remains on the periphery observing the relationship between the guy she wants and the woman that he chose. Her vocals take on an observational, floating quality of someone who knows the risk of being a destructive force, but who wants to be close enough to the step in if the opportunity presents itself. “I want to wait right here/Until it’s me and you.” “Charge” opens with violins and a harp before segueing into an acoustic guitar and David’s muscular baritone trading vocals with Rodgers.

Rodgers’ emphasis on melody stands out in a world were hip-hop is the reigning musical king, and the emphasis shifts to the percussive, rhythmic, boom bat elements that get heads nodding. To paraphrase N’Dambi, the neo-soul artist for whom Rodgers apprenticed as a backing vocalist, much of the contemporary musical world is a beat. On Stargazer, Rodgers shows listeners that her world includes so much more. Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Featured Album - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

Leave a comment!