Album review: MAGGIE E ROGERS – No Going Back

Maggie E Rogers - No Going Back

Self release [Release date 09.03.21]

Maggie E Rogers’ ‘No Going Back’ is both a pleasant surprise and absolute delight.

It’s a surprise simply because it’s a vast improvement on her previous album in terms of material, performance, and above all confidence.

While her debut album was impressive in terms of original material, it suffered slightly from being too circumspect.

It’s delightful too, because of the refreshing lyrical integrity, delivered over tight arrangements and fine playing. The songs have folky antecedents, jazzy edges, an occasional bluesy groove and strident electric guitar bursts from Damien Nolan  that amplify the lyrical feel and add to its musical heft.

‘No Going Back’ is coherent journey from the cool funky groove and bluesy tinged opener ‘Undercover’, to the closing folky duet ‘Time Together’, which finds Maggie paired with Chris Rogers on the perfect ending to an album built on strong songs, intuitive playing and emotive singing.

‘Undercover’ is also the first of several relationship songs glued together with poignant words: “always live on the edge of shadows and lies, you look over your shoulder, your heart to disguise.”

The 10 tracks feature half a dozen co-writes with M.D. Mike King. It’s almost a concept album, in as much as the retrospective title track sets the template for a number of narratives that move from the insightful to the wistful and are always delivered with genuine emotion.

At her best, Rogers reaches for a universal theme, as on the non relationship song ‘Quirky Little Town’, which benefits from Roger Inniss’s lilting bass and Mike King’s funky electric piano.

It’s probably about the London suburb in which she lives, but it’s applicable to a lot of folks who can surely relate to her words; “here I have space to breath.”

Indeed, when she then applies some further imagery like a painter’s brush stroke, her lyrical connection makes the song even more memorable: “The voices in the high street, the trains that come and go, this is my past and present, the history of life I know.”

The emotional depth of her lyrics also benefits from a clarity of diction and intuitive phrasing. This brings real presence to bear on songs such as ‘Troubled Soul’, a sultry jazzy arrangement full of deft brushed strokes, after hours sax and gently voiced piano.

Similarly on ‘Ain’t No Rest For Me’, her vocal evokes the restlessness of her lyrics on a song full of “guilt and pain.”

And yet in spite of the meditative mood it’s an uplifting track with evocative night time lyrics:  “I wish I was a night owl, there’d be lots of fun….so much to be done.”

‘No Going Back’ is a lyrically driven and layered album that reveals more with each play.

‘Terms & Conditions’ for example, is a love song with a well worked metaphor and a good example of her intricate songcraft.

The title track is short, sharp and to the point. The dirt-toned electric guitar bursts are the prefect counter-weight to the clarity of her timbre and features a lyric that best sums up the mission statement of the album as a whole: “Tonight I shared my writing and shared songs from my heart.”

The electric piano and bass combination of Mike King and Roger Inniss further underpin a song that thematically maps out the contours of the album’s subject matter.

The title track anchors the album at the midway point, while ‘The Time Has Come’ is wistful tale about flying the nest. Mike King’s lovely piano provides perfect foil for Maggie’s confident vocal which hits a top register note at the 1 minute 22 mark.

Mirco Altenbach’s sultry sax brings a different colour to the album, as on the jazzy influenced ‘Troubled Soul’, which features one of Maggie best vocals. He also subtly accompanies pianist King on the echo laden intro to ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Love’, on which the repeated hook lingers.

‘Trying To Reach The Light’ also has a late night jazzy feel with understated brush strokes and King’s delightful piano trills which perfectly fit the aspirational love song:  “Give your hand until I’m ready, Ready to breathe and let go.”

The intricate arrangements all contribute to an essential flow. It makes for a musically interesting album that subtly leads us to the afore mentioned duet with Chris Rogers.

‘Time Together’ is an unexpected acoustic folky piece interwoven with deft harmony vocals over delicate acoustic guitar. It’s well written, excellently played and the perfect end to a well thought out album.

‘No Going Back’ is a proud independent release with plenty to say and much good music to impart.  ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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