The new album: coming 10.16.19
The long-awaited follow-up to Almost There, Sammy winner for Best Americana
Featuring eight new songs, plus definitive band performances of the fan favorites "Sycamore Tree," "Fly," and "Only the Soul"
Listen to the first single (and download it instantly if you pre-order a CD or digital album).
I'm thrilled with this album and how it captures the deep grooves and improvisational power of this band, and the soul of my newest songs.
I have invested in this release without a Kickstarter or other funding campaign. Instead, I'm asking you to consider pre-ordering or joining my new Patreon—both are a huge help for recouping costs for production as well as promotion, radio, and other avenues for sharing this music more widely.
Thank you for listening and supporting independent music.
How you can support Live and Listening:
With all pre-orders, or any Patreon membership over $5, you'll receive:
- half-price ($5) tickets to the one and only Live and Listening release party, October 16 at the 443 Social Club and Lounge (Syracuse, New York)—where the album was recorded.
- 10 percent off books and everything else in the JPR shop, redeemable through the end of October.
1. Waiting for Spring
2. Shoulda Coulda
3. How Long Till It's Too Late
4. Any Other Way
5. Write Again
6. Holy Man
7. Sycamore Tree
8. Tiny Song
10. The story behind "Googling"
12. Only the Soul
About the album
Live and Listening is the result of the stars aligning one evening in May 2019. Our debut concert at a lovely new hometown venue. A pristine sound mix. A generous audience hanging on every word and note. Inspired by the warmth and intimacy of the room, the band that night was just in the zone, performing a bunch of new songs as well as taking flight on extended jams.
Sensing this might be a special night, I’d planned to record the show just to see what might capture. Afterward, when I listened back, I knew we had not only a great concert recording, but—boom—we had our long-awaited new album.
This isn’t the way albums are normally made. When you’ve got a batch of songs to debut, you typically hole up in a studio and slowly layer them together and obsess for weeks and months over the tiniest details of sound and pitch and phrasing. You disappear into this creative fog, and if you’re lucky and keep your eyes on the prize, you come out of it with a representation of the songs the way you’d imagined them.
I love that process and am very proud of the studio albums I’ve made. But I’m keenly aware that the hardest things to capture when you’re methodically piecing together a studio product are the sound and feeling of a real performance. The energy and recklessness. The humor. The serendipity. The interplay between voices and instruments, and between the performers and the audience.
Those things, friends, are what you hear on Live and Listening. For all the little imperfections of these tracks—a sniffle, a muffled lyric, the clink of a dinner plate—what you get is a real performance. And I present it to you as some of the best music I’ve ever put on record, a snapshot of four musicians locking in with each other and with the songs. Perfectly imperfect.
And those musicians are:
Wendy Sassafras Ramsay, my partner in the duo Pepper and Sassafras and a Swiss-army-knife instrumentalist, graces these songs with clarinet, flute, accordion, guitar, and sublime vocal harmony. (One of the album tracks, “Write Again,” is actually a recent live recording of the duo from another show, up in Vermont, that fit in nicely the full band performances.)
Josh Dekaney, a Texas native who’s fluent in music from all over the Americas, plays a one-of-a-kind hybrid drum/percussion kit. (Fun fact: On the night we recorded Live and Listening, the stage was a little too tight to fit his usual kit, so Josh went without his kick drum and relied on cajón, putting a different spin on his sound the entire night.)
Jason Fridley, a jazz-trained multi-instrumentalist who's a biology professor by day, anchors the band on electric bass and also cuts loose on alto saxophone on two tracks. He’s got a natural R&B feel that is evident throughout.
The album title is a nod to what is, to me, the most important characteristic of this band—and all good musicians. Listening. While it seems that the job of a musician is to project sound and fill space, in fact what’s even more important is tuning into what’s happening with the other players and in the room. And once you're tuned in, then you try to complement or color the moment.
With this band, I’m continually amazed by how everyone picks up on the smallest musical ideas—echoing or developing or commenting on them. It’s a continual conversation. In the instrumental sections of songs like “How Long Till It’s Too Late” or “Sycamore Tree,” you can hear this back and forth very clearly. Riffs and rhythmic shifts happened spontaneously that hadn’t happened before and may never happen again, and everyone is right in sync.
That kind of conversation is some of the biggest and best fun in playing music. I hope you get as much pleasure out of these songs as we did playing them.
Thanks for listening,
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers acoustic guitar, Strumstick, lead vocals
Wendy Sassafras Ramsay clarinet, flute, accordion, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Josh Dekaney percussion kit, backing vocals
Jason Fridley bass, alto saxophone, backing vocals
Recorded 5.4.19 at the 443 Social Club and Lounge, Syracuse, New York, by Jeremy Johnston, except “Write Again”: performed by Pepper and Sassafras 12.10.18 at Brick Box at the Paramount Theater, Rutland, Vermont, and recorded and mixed by Phil Henry
Album mixing and mastering by Jeremy Johnston
All songs by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers (Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers Music/ASCAP) except “Write Again”: words by Jack O. Bocchino and Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, music by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Thanks to Julie and Jimmy at the 443, Jeremy and Phil for capturing the performances, Jack for the evocative words, Genevieve Fridley for the video stills, my bandmates for their keen ears and adventurous spirit, and all who joined and inspired us in the room.