“If you’ve ever doubted that music creates happiness, this top-notch CD will quash your reservations: Almost There will raise even the darkest spirits, even when the lyrics depict life’s sadness. You will be compelled, as Pepper Rodgers, a triple threat as singer, guitar player, and lyricist, sings on jaunty ‘Eight Days in January’: ‘I come across this song, so freaking cheerful I can’t help but sing along.’
“The album of twelve songs of roots rock/blues/folk has an understated raw beauty; Rodgers’ spare, tasteful guitar and banjo are given inspired accompaniment by Wendy Ramsay on flute/clarinet/accordion/backup vocals, Josh Dekaney on percussion, and John Dancks on upright bass. Pepper Rodgers was a grand prize winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and this varied collection shows why. Every song is a winner, thick with evocative lines—’a crunch of gravel in the noonday still….I hang my soul to the wind’ (‘The Wrong Way Home’), strong melodies (‘Don’t Think That I Can Say Goodbye’), powerful grooves (‘Almost There’), and wickedly good, subtle, understated guitar playing (‘Closer’). Especially among the mostly uptempo pieces, the slow, bluesy ‘Somehow’ is an absolute stunner.
“Pepper Rodgers would undoubtedly be much more widely known had he not been busy focusing on teaching and music journalism (he’s a founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine), but this grievous oversight is one that Almost There should go a long way to correct. In ‘Turn Away’ he sings: ‘If I sing this song for you, will you sing with me?’ You bet you will—this CD will hold you hostage.”
—Céline Keating, Minor 7th