Garnet Rogers, Connie Kaldor | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Garnet Rogers, Connie Kaldor 

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GARNET ROGERS, CONNIE KALDOR

Canadian singer-songwriter Garnet Rogers's stentorian baritone is a double-edged sword: it sometimes overwhelms the fragile melancholy of his lyrics, but it's also an ideal instrument to express the determination that drives many of his characters. On his current CD, Sparrow's Wing (Snow Goose Songs), Rogers does some of his best work when he holds a little of his power in reserve. In "11:11," set to the early-19th-century British ballad "Derwentwater's Farewell," he describes a group of old soldiers gathering to be honored in the town square, and though his voice trembles and occasionally breaks, he never resorts to melodrama. The bombastic, Springsteen-esque pop rock of "Stormfront" makes his apocalyptic rant ("We've turned our towns into a filthy joke / Like a theme park built for swine") sound more like scolding than prophesying, but "Threshold" is as subtle as "Stormfront" is overwrought: it portrays a man exhausted by a life spent chasing dreams on the highway, looking back on his country childhood and the mysteries of young love. Rogers doesn't moralize or jump to easy conclusions--what he offers is an impeccable picture of one man's hunger for redemption and meaning. Opener Connie Kaldor, a fellow Canadian folkie, veers erratically between straightforward emotional honesty and overripe theatrics on her most recent disc, Love Is a Truck (Coyote). On the taut, swamp-rock-tinged "Liar," she sounds like a wounded cat bent on revenge, and "Wind That Laughs" is a lilting paean to simple pleasures, laced with gentle irony ("Hold on to me like a man who has all") and unforced optimism. But "All About Love," an ode to domestic tranquility, is at least as cutesy as Donna Fargo's "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA," whose redeeming ingenuousness it lacks. And cliched offerings like "Your Love" (which she describes as "a harbor in a stormy sea") and "Jump Over the Moon" ("From the moment that I met you / I felt the stars fall from the sky") are pushed over the line by teary-eyed gasps and forced crescendos. She's much stronger when she relies more on her own persona and less on artifice. Rogers and Kaldor will each play a solo set at this show. Sunday, February 11, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jean Berube.

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