Featuring “Fly,” grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest

Beautiful original songs… An album to listen to when you want to contemplate the everyday things of life.—Rootstime (Belgium)

“Folk music with a serrated edge…a magical blend of storytelling and driving flattop guitar.”—Andy Ellis

“Songs that fill the senses.”The Post-Standard

“Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers balances solemnity with an almost-hidden playfulness in this music. The melodies are spare and direct, and three strings are seldom used when only one is called for. Give him a listen.”Peter Mulvey

“Original, varied, and engaging.”David Cantor, GoodSound!

About the album

For nearly 20 years, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers has used his deep sense of music to deliver revelatory interviews with artists such as Joni Mitchell and Jerry Garcia, groundbreaking reports for NPR’s All Things Considered, and three books on songwriting and guitar. And as founding editor of Acoustic Guitar, Rodgers turned his lifelong passion for guitar into a thriving international monthly magazine.

All along the way Rodgers has been writing and playing his own songs, and growing creatively from his interactions with some of the greatest musicians of our time. And now all these experiences come together on a remarkable CD, Humming My Way Back Home.

“I’ve been writing and playing my own songs since I was a teenager, but in so many ways this CD feels like my debut,” says Rodgers. “I’m a firm believer that musicians should only put out records when they really have something to say, and in the last few years these songs have been whacking me on the shoulder to say: Hey—put us out there. We’re raring to go.”

Humming My Way Back Home is a testament to what Rodgers calls a “magic moment” in the technology of music, which he has explored as a musician and journalist from the digital recording revolution to the early days of MP3.com through the new frontier of online recording. Humming was recorded in various basements and living rooms on a laptop, then mixed and mastered in a professional studio. This combo, says Rodgers, gives a musician the ultimate freedom to capture intimate, in-the-moment performances with a clarity that rivals any pro studio.

On Humming, Rodgers uses that freedom to create a highly unconventional acoustic band with cajón (wooden box drum), hand percussion, acoustic guitar, and electric bass. On the CD Rodgers’ songs travel widely from their singer-songwriter roots, from the searing rock of “Wasting Time No More” to an adaptation of Brahms in “One More Waltz,” from the hoedown beat of “Fly” to the sly acoustic funk of “Only the Soul” with dueling sax and guitar. At turns wryly funny and piercingly personal, Rodgers uses his writer’s eye for detail to tell emotionally moving tales of modern life.

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer, author, editor, journalist: no matter which hat Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers is wearing, it’s all about the words and music.

About the songs

This CD is the sound of a songwriter at play—singing, strumming, picking, shaking, and thwacking various resonant objects, and inviting friends over to join the party. Any resemblance to glossy corporate productions is purely coincidental.

Humming My Way Back Home  For the gift of this song I am forever grateful to the Strumstick, the biggest (and oddest looking) little instrument I know. 

Only the Soul  As a kid I was as smitten with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” as I was with JT’s “Fire and Rain.” So this acoustic funk jam, driven by cajón and bass, fulfills a lifelong fantasy. Jesse Collins’ stunning sax lines put it over the top. 

My Life Doesn’t Rhyme After so many years of asking other songwriters why/how they write their songs, it only seemed fair that I should answer the question myself. 

American Dream  If you’ve ever loitered at a truck stop in the middle of the night on the outskirts of god-knows-where, you know what I mean. 

Leap of Faith  Pondering the imminent arrival of parenthood.

Fly  This duet with country-pop singer Lisa Gentile is adapted from the fiddle tune “Sally Goodin,” which is heard between verses (on five-string banjo) in its traditional form. 

One More Waltz  This gorgeous music by Brahms, originally written for piano and transcribed for guitar by Segovia, seemed to tell a sweet and sad story. So I did my best to listen and sing it. 

Dog for a Day  Anyone who lives with a dog asks, sooner or later, who’s really the master here? The track features my brother, Dru Rodgers, sometimes known as the Duke of Uke and my lifelong musical collaborator. 

Wasting Time No More  In the spring of 2007, I did a report for NPR’s All Things Considered on the new world of online recording, and I used a demo of this song to experience it firsthand: over the Internet, I collaborated with a drummer in Vancouver and a guitarist in southern California to craft a full rock-band arrangement. So it’s fitting that this CD track should feature the same drummer, Phil Robertson, and a scorching slide track by my friend David Hamburger—both of whom live thousands of miles away and traded files with me over the Web. 

Sister  In memory of Charlotte, and dedicated to mothers and fathers (and children) everywhere who’ve had to face the unthinkable. 

Traveling Song  Simplicity rules. 

Bones  This little ditty about fate, mortality, and the skeletal system grew out of a guitar groove that just wouldn’t quit, played with a lot of thumb slaps in an open tuning (D G D G B E).

Prayer  The exotic sound on this track is my brother’s eight-string baritone ukulele–not exactly an instrument you find at Guitars R Us.

Here  In the last stage of recording these songs, I was driving to Philadelphia to meet Issa (aka Jane Siberry) for an NPR interview and listening to Siberry’s extraordinary music en route. This melody came to me, and I sat in a rest area in the pouring rain singing it into my minidisk recorder. Jazz vocalist Hanna Richardson—whose incredibly sensitive harmonies are heard on four tracks—brought to life the vocal blend I was imagining.

Get the music

JPR Direct | CD Baby | iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp

Credits

1. Humming My Way Back Home lyrics
2. Only the Soul lyrics
3. My Life Doesn’t Rhyme lyrics
4. American Dream lyrics
5. Leap of Faith lyrics
6. Fly lyrics
7. One More Waltz lyrics
8. Dog for a Day lyrics
9. Wasting Time No More lyrics
10. Sister lyrics
11. Traveling Song lyrics
12. Bones lyrics
13. Prayer lyrics
14. Here lyrics

JPR vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, cajón, Strumstick, tenor banjo, frame drum, snare, and the percussion bag o’ tricks
Dru Rodgers tenor ukulele, eight-string baritone ukulele, backing vocals
Hanna Richardson backing vocals
Jesse Collins saxophone
Lisa Gentile duet and backing vocals
Joe Cleveland five-string banjo
Linda Stout backing vocals
Lila Rodgers violin
David Hamburger slide guitar
Phil Robertson drums

Mixed and mastered by Jocko at More Sound, Syracuse, NY